The activities of some doctors who participate in charitable operations in developing countries have led to a serious social problem known as safari surgery.
In many cases, this safari surgery is performed by doctors who are respected in their countries for their excellent work. Our group has conducted both charitable operations and technical transfer in many developing countries, primarily in the field of cleft lip and/or palate.
In some cases, doctors in developed countries visit developing countries to practise operations. In addition, these doctors are requested to perform specialized operations in these countries.
In most cases, they stay only to perform the operation without following up on the patient. This can result in complications in many of the patients. Thus, although these doctors are admired as humanitarians in their home countries, they are not as highly revered in the developing countries and may even be viewed as an intrusion.
Only doctors who are specialists in their countries should be invited to treat patients in these developing countries and should follow up on these patients for an appropriate length of time.
Many volunteer physicians come to developing countries, primarily at large hospitals. These hospitals tend to be quite antiquated, with a greater need for upgraded equipment than foreign doctors, because most of these hospitals already staff local doctors who have had advanced training abroad.
Based on these situations,we propose the following guidelines for medical humanitarian aid.
- 1. Along-term technology transfer plan is needed for charitable operations. A MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the local people and/or governmentand the volunteer mission is necessary when the visiting doctors perform operations, provide equipment and education.
- 2. Medical humanitarian aid, including cosmetic surgery, should not be profit-motivated. These projects should be carried out in a charitable spirit. Furthermore, these operations should not entail an additional financial burden to the host community.
- 3. Participants should fully understand the host country's laws, customs and systems.
- 4. These charitable activities should not be religiously or politically motivated.
- 5. Surgeous should act as both teachers and practitioners.
- 6. Surgery should be performed in collaboration with the local doctors. This will allow more effective treatment and technology transfer.
- 7. We must take responsibillity for the patients convalescence. We should also establish a plan of assistance for the patients independence.
- 8. The governing bpdy of the organination should maintain arecord of the volunteer participants professional license and personal history. Measures should be taken to ensure the health and safety of the volunteer participants.
- 9. A fund is needed for medical accident and/or travel insurance for the staff.