By Areeba Mustafa;
Introduction: The health and lives of people in Pakistan are under constant threat from quacks, who exploit poverty and ignorance. The proliferation of false, unscientific treatments poses
significant risks and potential complications. While the prevalence of quackery is commonly associated with rural or underdeveloped areas, the problem has now extended to major cities like Lahore and Rawalpindi.
The Grip of Quackery: A notable example of quackery was witnessed in Lahore, where a poster advertising a local quack’s services caught our attention. The quack claimed to treat Mumps through faith healing and massage, attracting patients with the promise of relief from swelling, fever, and pain. We observed a child undergoing the treatment, wherein the quack repeatedly rotated his finger around the affected area while blowing on the patient’s face. The child’s guardian paid the fee, and they left. Similar scenes can be witnessed in Raja Bazar, Rawalpindi, where quacks perform oral surgeries on the roadside, using unsterilized equipment and endangering lives.
The Magnitude of the Problem: According to government data, the number of quacks in Pakistan exceeds the total count of registered qualified doctors. These quacks claim expertise in treating a wide range of ailments, including ear, nose, teeth, neck, skin, and genital issues. They even falsely assert proficiency in treating major and minor fractures, exploiting the vulnerability of the poor and less educated population.
Root Causes: Poverty and Ignorance: Sadly, the practice of seeking treatment from fake doctors and quacks instead of qualified physicians has become commonplace in Pakistan, primarily due to poverty and ignorance. These unscrupulous practitioners operate freely on sidewalks, shops, shrines, and even in homes, without any intervention to stop their illegal and dangerous activities. The consequences of such practices are devastating for patients.
The Alarming Statistics: The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council reports an estimated 600,000 quacks across the country, with one-third of them concentrated in the province of Sindh alone. The number of quacks continues to rise, posing severe health risks to vulnerable populations, including the poor, critically ill, women, and children. Urgent action is required to protect the well-being of these individuals.
The Need for Intervention: The National Institute of Health reveals that quacks exploit new discoveries in the field of medical sciences, capitalizing on public ignorance and limited knowledge. They claim to possess extensive knowledge and effective treatments for various diseases, while conveniently disclaiming any guarantees of success. To combat this issue, it is crucial for authorities such as the Police, Health Ministry, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, and Pakistan Medical Education to unite and eliminate these charlatans from slums and roadsides. Public health awareness campaigns and community centers should be established to play a central role in disease control and prevention. Additionally, healthcare workers and physicians must prioritize disease-specific education, ensuring that people seek advice from authorized professionals who can guide them regarding disease course, complications, and treatment plans.
Conclusion: Quackery continues to endanger the health and lives of the people of Pakistan. The prevailing poverty and ignorance allow these quacks to thrive, exploiting vulnerable individuals in both urban and rural areas. It is imperative for the concerned authorities to take swift and decisive action to eradicate quackery. By raising public awareness, establishing community centers, and improving disease-specific education, we can empower individuals to seek proper medical guidance and prevent the grave consequences of false treatments. (The writer is a MBBS student in Karachi Pakistan)