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Arroyo apologized after scolded by Philippine Medical Association

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Inquirer – The cardiologist of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has apologized after being scolded by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) for publicly saying that she needed immediate cervical spine surgery and that she should get it abroad because there were no specialists here who could handle the operation.

Dr. Leo Olarte, an orthopedic surgeon and a PMA governor, said in a separate interview that Dr. Roberto Anastacio might have broken the organization’s code of ethics by recommending treatment for Arroyo even though he was not a bone expert.

“You should stick to your field, especially in sensitive cases,” Olarte said.

Asked if Anastacio’s statement to the committee meant that he admitted being wrong in saying Arroyo needed surgery abroad as soon as possible and that there were no specialists who could handle the operation here, Olarte replied: “Exactly. He said he did not advise surgery in the US.”

Dr. Mike Aragon, PMA spokesman, said in a phone interview Thursday that the organization’s ethics committee called Anastacio on Wednesday night to explain his statements to the press last week that Arroyo had no choice but to go abroad for cervical spine surgery.

Aragon said the PMA ethics committee questioned Anastacio to determine if he had violated the organization’s rules. Anastacio’s questioning lasted till midnight, Aragon said.

Anastacio could not be contacted for comment on Thursday.

Dangerous condition

Anastacio called a news conference on August 17 and told reporters that the titanium brace that had been implanted in Arroyo’s neck had shifted, blocking her air and food pathways.

The condition, Anastacio said, was dangerous, as it could cause cardiac arrest and “sudden death.”

When asked by reporters if Arroyo’s condition was life-threatening, Anastacio firmly replied, “Yes.”

He said, however, that he ordered Arroyo discharged from Makati Medical Center (MMC) but advised her to seek surgery in the United States or Austria.

He explained that Arroyo’s condition needed a “complete support structure” of specialists used to “repetitive reconstruction.”

Arroyo is suffering from cervical spondylosis, a degenerative condition of the cartilage and bones of the neck caused by the chronic erosion of the cervical spine.

She has had three surgeries since July 2011.

Anastacio said the team of experts that Arroyo needed to handle her fourth operation—composed of a surgeon, neurophysiologists, biomedical engineers and medical researchers—was not available in the Philippines.