Because the doctor said so

Even though Malians are rather suspicious when it comes to the motives of their countrymen, authority rules. A doctor, president, minister or religious leader will be supported and given confidence, unless someone really crosses the line.
Not always the best choice though, as you can imagine.

Unfortunately many a doctor seems to be an instrument of the pharmaceutical industry rather than a caring or capable doctor (luckily there are exceptions to these ‘rules’!).

I know of a woman who was given ointments to rub in huge open wounds. She was crying from pain twice a day for over 20 minutes. When she showed me the ointment I was in shock and fully understood her excruciating pains. The ointment was meant to relieve aching muscles.
Do not use on blessed skin, said the first line of the warnings.
She had never learned to read and had fully confided in her husband’s favorite doctor…

In Mali antibiotics are used to cure pretty much everything.
A cold: antibiotics.
An aching feet: antibiotics.
Malaria: antibiotics.
Typhoid: antibiotics.
Anything else: antibiotics…
With the knowledge we have nowadays about antibiotics, I’m feeling quite helpless when people happily show me the prescribed antibiotics against simple things as having a cold or being exhausted. Just go to bed and sleep I’ve said to several people.
‘Monique, we don’t have the time to sleep’, I was answered.

I’ve seen men sharing a strip of tablets the way we share cookies.
‘Monique, take one’, they generously offered. They were very surprised that I refused.
‘It’s good for you, you won’t get ill if you eat this!’, they told me with big smiles and they were convinced of it.

On several occasions I’ve been prescribed medicines to cure disease I hadn’t, such as anti-malaria tablets and fever inhibitors.
‘But I don’t have malaria, you just said’, I stumbled in surprise, watching the doctor.
‘No you don’t have malaria.’
‘And I don’t have fever’, I asked to be sure.
‘No you don’t have fever.’
‘So, I don’t need these medications at all.’
‘Well you know, you are low on resistance, so it’s just to make sure you won’t get malaria or a fever.’

Knowing my resistance against doctors, antibiotics and medications, this doctor already gives me less than he would usually prescribe. Nevertheless it’s much more than necessary and I avoid visiting him or any other doctor, unless I feel really ill.
And even then I read the instructions of all medicines prescribed for use before actually taking anything. Too many side effects or not specifically fitting my needs? Not being taken!

Before giving this to a woman, let her do a test, to make sure she’s not pregnant, was written in one of them. Okay, I’m not pregnant, but he forgot to ask about it or have me do a test.
For women: start this treatment in the first week after having your period, was written in another one. The doctor said: start this on Saturday. It was about three weeks after having my period, but he couldn’t know that since he didn’t ask for it…

Recently Ibrahim asked me if I had taken my medications.
‘Yes’, I replied.
‘All of them?’
‘No, not those against malaria and fever, because I don’t have malaria nor fever’, I replied.
He knew on forehand I wouldn’t take them, but had bought them anyway.
I do realize he’s worried for my well-being.

As am I for his when I see him taking high doses of antibiotics because the doctor told him to do so. Or when he tells me that someone was spreading medicines to everyone in the streets.
‘But what were those medicines good for’, I asked feeling quite shocked.
‘Well, I don’t know, but the doctor said they were good for us and everybody else also took them’, he replied.
He’s usually quite a rebel, refusing to do or belief what others take for granted, but when it comes to doctors… Hopefully next time he’ll think twice and ask some questions!

If you are ill, it makes you better.
If you eat it when you’re healthy, you won’t get ill..?

About MoInMali

Monique is the founder of Papillon Reizen, a Mali based travel agency specialized in inspiring journeys in Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. Fair-trade and with a heart for people, environment and culture. Small-scale group journeys as well as family trips and journeys tailored to your wishes. We love to share West Africa's beauty with you and take you on a journey to experience rather than to see. Monique lives in Mali with her Malian partner and shares some of her daily life experiences with you through this blog. For information on Papillon Reizen:
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