PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 October, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 October, 1994, 12:00am

MANY readers of your columns over the last year must be uneasy after reading countless reports of suffering or death after medical treatment.

Very often, these are contained in reports of inquests.

We tend to believe that these are things that do not or should not happen in the rational world of scientific medicine. However, such a belief belongs to the world of the television soap opera: the real world is different. Western scientific medicine has given undoubted benefits in the treatment of many - mainly acute - situations.

However, it has shown itself to be less than perfect in many other - mainly chronic - diseases.

If these shortcomings were more widely appreciated, its paramount status within the total range of the healing arts in Hong Kong might be reconsidered by government and, particularly, insurance companies.

Some of these shortcomings are well described in a recent book Betrayal of Trust, by Dr Vernon Coleman (a medical doctor). Research undertaken in the UK suggests that one in six people are in hospital because of 'iatrogenic illness' (doctor induced disease).

Coleman calculates that this represents about 1.1 million patients a year: the greatest cause of illness in England.

Would the Secretary for Health and Welfare please tell us what are the comparable statistics for iatrogenic illness in Hong Kong? If no such statistical records have been maintained, then surely it is time that such recording be commenced.

Recognition of the truth can only bring benefit to all participants - including practitioners.

Also, judging by the UK experience, this is a very large factor in the cost of health services.

E. J. SPAIN Lantau