The word “doctor” according to the English dictionary is defined as “one who is a member of the medical profession or one who is trained and licensed to heal the sick or injured”.
From this definition, it is clear that to be medically addressed as a doctor, an individual must have been trained by a medical institution and licensed by a professional body to practice.
On the other hand, a “quack” is defined by the same English dictionary as “an impostor who claims to have qualifications to practice medicine”.
Today, it is a pity that many dubious individuals who we can simply address as quacks exploit the prestige and privilege associated with the title “doctor” to present themselves to the public as what they are not in order to carry out fraudulent acts.
Quackery has become a deeply-rooted problem in Nigeria, plaguing not only the medical profession, but also the noble veterinary profession. Quite a number of people fall victim of this menace because they want healthcare services delivered to them or their livestock at rates much cheaper than what licensed practitioners would demand. These victims think they are doing themselves a favour, but in actual fact, they are only placing themselves in a huge and totally avoidable risk.
Quacks soil the names of good professions with criminal activities. Just recently, two impostors who had presented themselves as Veterinary Doctors were apprehended by the Department of State Security Service for supplying bandits with camouflage, military uniform and for treating rustled cattle.
Prior to the time a proper check was carried out on these individuals, the news headlines had already tagged them as Veterinary Doctors. The media clearly stated it to the public that the notorious acts were carried out by self-proclaimed Veterinarians, thereby dragging the name of the noble profession in the mud. Meanwhile, the subsequent thorough investigation revealed the culprits as impostors.
Quacks take advantage of the ignorance of clients to defraud them or even worse. Worthy of note is the increasing level of antimicrobial resistance in this modern era.
Day in, day out, antimicrobial resistance has proven to be a major setback for the health sector. Many drugs that were once effective against certain disease-causing microbes have now been rendered redundant by virtue of resistance developed against them over time. This challenge has prompted major health organizations to lead campaigns and awareness programs on the dangers of constant abuse of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance.
However, as long as quackery remains, there exists an unresolved inlet for antimicrobial resistance because the unprofessionalism of these quacks will cause them to use antibiotics in irrational and uncontrolled manners as they try to manage cases presented to them by their ignorant clients. The aftermath of this is increased resistance of microbes and difficulty in treatment. Curable diseases may become incurable.
Furthermore, with quacks within the system, the success of the One-Health approach is not guaranteed. Professionals who pass through the proper medical institutions are trained on the ethics of the medical profession and they most certainly have the understanding that the safety of animal health also affects the safety of humans. These professionals therefore take appropriate caution when they deal with health.
Quacks on the other hand have little or no regard for the principles guiding the veterinary/medical profession. A quack may decide to use the same unsterilized equipments in the treatment of different animals, thereby transferring a deadly disease from an infected herd to another in a different location. If these diseases happen to be zoonotic, they may as well be transmitted to humans through fomites.
Lastly, a quack creates an unhealthy competition for a licensed practitioner within the labour market. As a veterinary medical student, I clearly understand the rigours associated with the 6 years of Veterinary school and it saddens me whenever I give a thought to the fact that I would not only have to struggle to standout among my colleagues in the labour market, but also with some “unworthy rivals” (quacks) who never stepped within the four walls of a veterinary school.
In response to the criminal case of the impostors who disguised as veterinarians, the Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN), under the leadership of CP Aishatu Baju, took certain measures and through a press release, gave a stern warning that quackery or any act related to it is a punishable offence in Nigeria and also advised members of the public to absolutely desist from it.
Finally, to effectively curtail quackery, all hands must be on deck. People in demand of healthcare services must learn to properly investigate whichever health practitioner they consult to ascertain their genuineness and also stop their search for very cheap health services.
Consult a professional! Only him/her is licensed and trained to protect and preserve animal and human health.