By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
First do no harm (Latin, Prima non nocere), is the phrase that all members of the health, especially the medical, fraternity worldwide are bound to.
It is implied as part of the Hippocratic oath (not verbatim) that places the professionals in a position of ultimate responsibility and accountability to safeguard the well-being of every human person.
It is deemed as the first principle that provides a rigorous bioethical-moral foundation to act and speak truth to whoever on matters of life-and-death, especially in the healthcare sector.
To health professionals who are truly committed to the welfare of their patients and clients will hold to it dearly as a batch of honour come what may. Some may even find it to resonate with moral-spiritual beliefs that all creditable religions tend to promote across the board.
In Islam, the Quran (5:32) makes it clear when it declares that saving one human life is like saving all of humanity.
It further consolidates the Hippocratic oath uncompromisingly in taking bold and principled vital decisions to promote well-being without fear or favour.
It is not easy, but the intention is clear: first do no harm, so that the community can be assured that their members could fully trust the health fraternity to act in their best interest. Not out of vested self-interest in pursuing things with utter greed and ruthlessness.
The involvement of the pseudo-health professionals and hand in gloves with politicians in this case cannot be dismissed.
Until lately, we were fortunate to be assured as demonstrated by the Malaysian Medical Association, the Malaysian Pharmacists Society, Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control as well as the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, among others, that reportedly voted against the government’s move to delist nicotine, a noted poison and highly addictive substance, from the Poisons List under the Poisons Act 1952.
For the longest time, it has been appropriately listed within any governmental intervention for the similar reasons to uphold the first do no harm principle.
That is, knowing full well that nicotine has a myriad of “harmful,” if toxic actions attached to it as evident from many scientific studies related to tobacco use.
Nicotine is a naturally occurring substance in tobacco leaves that made tobacco products on high demand as recreational social items among the elites of the day. It commands an elevated status sought after by the rich and famous turning it into lucrative trade worldwide.
Thanks to the marked addictive properties that serve to keep millions of users hooked for life. It goes without saying, a prominent cause of premature death too until today.
This tragic trend is now being repeated with the introduction of electronic-cigarette (e-cigarette) gadgets in 2003.
It provides an alternative delivery system commonly called ‘vaping’ involving a heating process to produce ‘vapour’ from a solution containing nicotine.
The toxic vapour is inhaled by the users, hence ‘vaping’, though claimed to be ‘safer’ and ‘cleaner.’
Allegedly, its popularity is on the rise among the younger generations relative to traditional tobacco use which is slowly declining due novel marketing of e-cigarettes. The current hasty delisting exercise will not only accelerate the popularity further among the youth in particular, it will also induce more addiction.
Evidently, reports from the media are showing an upward trend of uninhibited vape use publicly. Generally, it is alarming to see school children beginning to openly experiment with the previously ‘forbidden’ item.
Some were said to show extreme headaches before experiencing vomiting endlessly.
Another victim was seen to be delirious, accompanied by seizures and muscular spasm. Their lips turned pale. These are but some of the incidences that were observed barely a week after the delisting tragedy.
According to a teacher witnessing the tragic experiences, each could be traced to the (mis)use of vape which is now readily accessible like never before.
Bearing in mind it is still a long way away before the promised new bill is set to be introduced in May, if at all.
Meanwhile, what else can be expected given the mounting unwarranted agony and sufferings arising from vape-all-you-can incentive following the dubious delisting of nicotine thanks to the power that be, who is sensitise not to cause any harm, but acted exactly in the stark contradiction against public health conscience.
The choice to forsake evidence-based science for politico-market sentiments paint a bleak future for the health of the nation.
No doubt, it becomes the paramount public health concern when children and adolescents are unduly exposed to doses of harmful nicotine due to poor decision-making ethics!
The only way out is to immediately bring nicotine back into the Poisons List and urgently save our kids from the multitudes of harmfulness incited by the blatant irresponsible decision and the collapse of moral authority.
In the spirit of Ramadan, apologies are certainly in order to restore trust and confidence. – BACALAHMALAYSIA.MY
- The writer is the chairperson of Citizens International based in Penang