WMA supports opposition to Korean government medical plans

(25.03.2015) Plans by the South Korean Government to allow traditional oriental medicine doctors to use modern medical equipment have been condemned by the World Medical Association as costly and a danger to patient safety.

The WMA has spoken out following proposals by the South Korean Government to bring in a series of measures recommended by business-related organisations to revitalise the economy and create more jobs. Under these plans doctors licensed only for traditional oriental medicine would be allowed to use modern diagnostic equipment, health insurance coverage would be expanded for these practices and chiropractic and tattoo practitioners would be legally recognised.

The moves have been strongly opposed by the Korean Medical Association on the grounds that they would undermine the entire medical system in the country and bring confusion and unnecessary conflict to medical practice in Korea. The Association has argued that modern medicine and traditional medicine are strictly separated in Korea, are based on different principles and have different training.

Now the WMA has supported the Korean Medical Association. In a letter to Dr. Choo Moojin, President of KMA, the WMA's President Dr. Xavier Deau writes: ‘The high levels of quality, safety and effective and personal care Koreans enjoy today is at risk with these suggested changes – driven more my commerce than scientific and medical reasoning.’

He adds: ‘It is very clear that this move by the Korean government is nothing else but an attempt to de-value the health system and diminish the quality care enjoyed by Koreans today. These actions will not only commercialize health care but debase it with a longer term expense to Koreans and government as such short sighted reduction of standards, in the name of commercialization or competition, will diminish the service experienced by people with increased morbidity and mortality’.

Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the WMA, said the plans would lead to a massive increase in the use of costly technology, much of which would be wrongly interpreted. He warned: ‘As a number of those technologies are potentially dangerous in their application, injuries, suffering and damages are likely to occur.’