Monday, February 14, 2011

Sexually Transmitted Infections Can Also Be Spread By Unsafe Healthcare

When patients are found to have been exposed to HIV or other viruses as a result of the care they received, so called 'nosocomial' infections, they are usually recalled for testing and treatment, as required. This certainly happens in many rich countries, but not always, it seems.

A doctor operating in Philadelphia illegally aborted fetuses in their third trimester and then killed them by severing their spinal cords with scissors. Many women have been seriously injured as a result of this doctor's treatment and some have died.

The doctor has been convicted of murder and the fact that so many people were affected over such a long period of time has been put down to a 'complete regulatory collapse'. The case is so horrifying that it is probably difficult for those reading about it to concentrate on anything but what should happen to the perpetrators and how this sort of thing can be prevented from happening again.

But what about all the women who have been treated in the appalling conditions described in the article? They have been exposed to all sorts of things, some of which will make them very sick, some of which will eventually kill them. They need to be screened and treated, if it's not already too late.

The issue is not just how authorities should have done their job in the first place, that's the concern of relevant institutions and regulatory bodies. But for the women concerned, their immediate need is for proper health care, albeit belated. Lives may be saved, illness averted and even mental trauma may be relieved.

Other articles I have seen involving unsafe healthcare mentioned the actions that were taken to limit the damage to those who were still alive. But I have yet to find out if all previous patients have been traced in this instance. Is this because no effort has yet been made to trace them, or is it that the sheer horror of the case has distracted attention from the victims?

A number of other employees in the same clinic were also indicted with various crimes and the clinic, which appears to have concentrated on late term abortions, was operating for 16 years. There is no telling what risks the patients faced over the years.

The circumstances surrounding the case are almost beyond belief and my question is not about the fact that so many warning signs were ignored for so long; rather, I'd like to know if it is true that most of the clientele attending this clinic were poor and/or non-white.

The chances of non-white, especially black, Americans becoming infected with HIV are far higher than the chances of white people becoming infected. Similar remarks apply to sexually transmitted infections (STI). But high prevalence of STIs doesn't merely indicate high levels of unsafe sexual behaivor. It could also indicate low levels of health care provision, especially sexual and reproductive health care.

The jury in the case of the clinic doctor, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, concluded: "Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that. But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political subject of abortion." And apparently white clients were treated quite differently.

Many women who attended this clinic were infected nosocomially with sexually transmitted infections. Being sexually active, poor and non-white, it would probably have been assumed that they were infected sexually. Nosocomial infection appears to be of interest in other cases of unsafe healthcare, but not in this one. Not so far, anyhow.


No comments: