Here are three reasons why:
1. Medical missions do not address the health problem.
The medical management does not address the cause of the problem. A patient may come in with Tuberculosis due to the poor sanitation of the area, or poor nutrition, or poor hygiene habits. The current trend in medical management today is holistic approach wherein the doctor not only intervenes at the medical condition of the patient but also considers the other factors surrounding the patient. These factors include the mental, social and spiritual factors. Medical management also includes patient education on how the patient can improve her living condition, environment, lifestyle and other things more than just taking the prescribed medicines. This may not be possible as time is not a luxury during med missions. Also, some cases like TB needs further patient care which leads us to the second reason.
When Jesus healed the lepers, he restored their relationship with society. Remember, patient care is more than just treating the disease.
2. Medical missions do not provide continuing patient care.
Proper medical care is continuous and personalized. When medical missions are one time event, it does not allow for patient to follow-up with their health care provider for continuing care. Imagine the popular summer medical mission providing free circumcision to young boys. If complications happen to the wound, how will the boy get follow-up care from the healthcare giver? But a better example is chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Continuous care is needed. Even if complications do not happen, the healthcare worker are ethically bound to continue care to the patient until they are well. This will not happen in one-time medical missions. Because of time constraints, personalized care are seldom given to patients.
When Jesus touched the sick, he touched their lives and they became his friends. Remember, the doctor-patient relationship is a contract of trust for care not for a one time meeting.
3. The ultimate goal is not patient well-being.
While medical missions looks into the health condition of the patients, the intent of the mission is not always the person's health. It is an open secret that politicians sponsor medical missions with the real intent of campaigning for people support. Churches sponsor medical missions as an evangelistic tool to persuade people to become Christians. Organizations sponsor medical missions as an outreach activity to gain prestige and recognition. There are other reasons individuals and groups sponsor medical mission but few are intent in addressing the health needs of the people. If the intent is to help people achieve good health, then they know that a one-time medical mission is not enough.
When Jesus came to heal the sick, his purpose was to heal the sick. In this context, health means a full life. Remember, health is an end not a means.
It is unethical for doctors to violate the principles of medicine. So, like most of my colleagues, I may decline invites in your one-time big time medical missions.
There maybe some benefits to the med missions but we can do better. I can name 5 health ministries churches can do. It is high time we level-up what we can do to improve the health of the community.