MEDICAL ANECDOTAL REPORT
Indexing Title: RAMOSA’S MAR [15-03]
MAR Title: Believe It or Not
Date of Medical Observation: April 2015
Tag: Filipino superstitions and folklore affecting healthcare.
Category: Professional/Ethical, Reinforcement
While I was doing my daily wound care at the wards, I noticed a peculiar looking scar on one of our patient’s abdomen. The patient is a 36-year-old female, currently pregnant for 14 weeks, who underwent operation due to complete gut obstruction. I knew the scar was not from the recent procedure she had and so I asked her about it. She said she got it after visiting a witch doctor where application of burnt herbs and garlic was advised. The patient’s mother then said “Akala kasi namin nabiktima din siya ng aswang”. (We thought she was another victim of a ghoul.) At first I thought, she was just joking. I couldn’t help but laugh and say “Ha? Niloloko mo naman ako, mommy!” (Huh? You must be kidding me, mommy!) To my surprise, she remained serious and said “Hindi ah! Totoo talaga yun”. (No! It’s the truth). She then went on telling about their relative who was once a victim of an aswang and mentioned that their neighbor is the aswang. She even shared about her personal experiences and even taught me how to detect an aswang. I was so fascinated by her stories that I didn’t realize it was almost time for our morning endorsements. I had to end her story-telling and promised to come back for more. I left the room still feeling amused and pleased.
INSIGHT: (Physical, Psychosocial, Professional/Ethical), (Discovery, Stimulus, Reinforcement)
Filipinos are truly superstitious people. Even in this modern age, many Filipinos still cling to the traditional beliefs and practices our ancestors have taught us. In fact, to a lot of Filipinos, superstitious beliefs are important and can influence them in planning or making their decisions. Some people even believe that following these can help them prevent danger from happening.
Even in health care, there are numerous superstitions. Some common examples include:
• Taking a bath at night will cause anemia or low blood pressure.
• After circumcision, a boy should not step on a mortar or pestle; otherwise, his organ will grow as big as these.
• Taking pictures of a pregnant woman will cause an abortion or a difficult delivery.
We wonder where these beliefs came from and find it funny or even weird. However, many people still believe in these even here in the city. It is inevitable that we encounter patients with such superstitious beliefs.
In my case, I initially thought our patient’s mother was trying to fool me, but she was not; she was even trying to convince me to believe in it too. Respectfully, I told her that I still do not believe in such folklore. Moreover, I told her that she may continue to believe in it as long as she still follows our medical advice. However odd and out-of-the-ordinary their beliefs and practices may seem, we should not mock or make fun of them. We should respect their beliefs but still try to convince them to see the rationale. As physicians, it is our responsibility to explain and correct common misconceptions especially those that would affect our patient’s health and welfare.
ROJoson’s Notes (17feb8):
Always respect patients’ beliefs and culture when doing problem-solving and decision-making in medicine.