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‘Medical discretion?’

The report of a certain neurologist’s observation that Manny Pacquiao may be exhibiting signs of an early onset of Parkinson’s syndrome without the benefit of an examination has caused serious damage not only on the fighter’s reputation but also that of the doctor.

The observation was based on TV footage that appeared to show, in the doctor’s eyes, some twitching of Pacquiao’s hand. How credible is anyone’s observation if it is based on TV footage? If the footage was shot by a cameraman with a hand-held apparatus, how clear was the visual? If Pacquiao was in motion and so was the cameraman, was the “twitching” distinct? What about the cameraman’s hand – was it also “twitching?” 

If the doctor saw something irregular, shouldn’t he have reached out to Pacquiao’s attending physicians at Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital and shared the observation instead of making it public through media? Whatever happened to medical discretion? An observation from a doctor on Pacquiao’s condition has world-wide impact. Even if the doctor said he has Pacquiao’s interest at heart, he should have realized there would be serious repercussions in a media declaration.

The doctor qualified his observation by admitting he had never examined Pacquiao but the public pays little attention to the fine print. What came across in media was the doctor’s observation that Pacquiao may be showing early signs of Parkinson’s syndrome and that’s headline material. The fact that the doctor never examined Pacquiao should have been enough reason for him to withhold making statements in media. Nobody is in a position to speculate on the doctor’s motives even as some sectors claim it was the height of irresponsibility and a breach of medical ethics for the sake of media mileage. I would give the doctor the benefit of the doubt, that he spoke in good faith and might have just been goaded into making a statement by a reporter out for a sensational scoop.

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A source disclosed that the doctor is not a full-fledged neurosurgeon, isn’t Board certified, isn’t a fellow of the Philippine Neurologists Association and isn’t a diplomate. “A comment like that destroys not only our world boxing icon but also the doctor as a practitioner,” said the source. “He should’ve been discreet in his comments. If he wanted to help Manny, he shouldn’t have made public his observation.”

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All tests conducted on Pacquiao’s brain after his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last month turned out to be negative for damage. He underwent a CT-Scan in Las Vegas and an MRI at the Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital. Because of the doctor’s public observation, it was rumored that Pacquiao will undergo more tests supervised by Dr. Gina Bagsik of Cardinal Santos and Dr. Dominic Jamora, a Parkinson’s specialist from St. Luke’s Medical Center, if only to dispel unfounded speculation on his health. Pacquiao arrived from a holiday break in Israel late Tuesday night.

Curiously, the talk in Las Vegas immediately after Pacquiao’s defeat was about Marquez’ possible use of performance-enhancing-drugs not the Filipino’s health. Boxing experts didn’t seem too concerned that Pacquiao’s loss would result in debilitating effects on his body. 

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Boxing News, the authoritative London weekly trade publication, recently ran a survey asking what should Pacquiao do next. Welterweight contender Chris van Heerden said: “Pacquiao isn’t finished yet. I’m sure a fifth fight against Marquez would sell out again. He should take a little break and then put the gloves back on when he feels ready.” Lightmiddleweight contender Keith Thurman chimed in: “He’s not washed up but he should consider concentrating on his political work instead of boxing because he’s already had a great career and made a lot of money.”

Welterweight prospect Bradley Skeete said: “He needs to sit down and consider his options. He’s a legend in the sport. He had a bad day at the office against Marquez but there are still big fights out there for him.” Former Amir Khan opponent Paul McCloskey noted: “He’s financially secure and he’s got a lot going on outside of the ring with his political work. After everything he’s already achieved in boxing, retirement is a real option.”

Boxing News editor Tris Dixon never touched on Pacquiao’s health in declaring a fifth fight against Marquez would be a humdinger. What he pushed for was Marquez agreeing to undergo random drug testing like Nonito Donaire Jr. “What a platform it would provide for the fighters, promoter and commission to make sure that the contest goes on without the sinister and naïve undertones associated with this occasion,” said Dixon. “It was Marquez’ finest hour, his reward for a long, hard career often spent silhouetted by the limelight. Now he can reward the sport by taking a stand and joining Donaire in the war on drugs, something he said he is happy to do.”

Freddie Roach said it’s not the end for Pacquiao. “I would love to get a rematch but there are a lot of things we need to think about and we won’t know overnight,” said Roach. “I thought Manny was fighting a smart fight against a very strong opponent. Let this settle down, he could possibly retire, possibly have a rematch or possibly fight Marquez again but take a fight before. It depends on how he feels and what he wants to do.”

Only Pacquiao has the answers to all the questions about his future.

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