Dr Ankit Sharma
Anaesthesiology and Critical Care
UCMS, New Delhi
The world is an unfair place. We see serial killers and rapists evading capital punishment, and on the other hand, we see newborn babies and children with fatal diseases due to no fault of their own. While some religious fanatics say that it is because of sins of a previous birth, I disagree with the same. It can’t be their fault because they are children and have no control over chromosomes and allied factors. In such a world, there was a profession invented in which a few chosen ones would read about the human body for years together, bypassing all the major festivals and life-events (sometimes, though rarely, including their own weddings), and would make an effort to treat ailments of the human body. In due time, these professionals were promoted to God-like status, and then fairly quickly, brought down to the status of butchers and greedy unethical leeches.
In such an era, the doctor-patient relationship which was earlier based on mutual trust, including the expectation that the patient won’t change the history suddenly in front of the examiner during your practice, and understanding each other in terms of limitation and suffering, has stooped down to a level of suspicion and allegations. Still, it is always important to hear both sides of the story.
A doctor’s perspective:
It may be a generation gap issue, yet somehow many people (thankfully not all) believe that the new-age doctors do not have the same concern for a patient’s suffering as the older ones. The perception is that they do not understand how debilitating actual physical pain is. Now people have started chasing them with footwear and/or metal rods in their hand through the corridors of hospitals, probably only because they want doctors to relate to their physical pain, and the emotional and psychological toll it takes on them so that there can be an element of “I feel you!”
Even if we take into account that suffering and/or personal loss is a very emotional matter, there are legal avenues that can help and protect the interests of the general public. Beating up a doctor for such reasons is actually counter-productive because of three reasons:
- It demotivates doctors and medical students from serving the general public.
- It decreases the availability of health care to other patients at that point of time and immediate future because a doctor is much less likely to treat a patient if he is missing functionality of a limb or two.
- The physical and mental trauma is never ending and doctors are severely injured in many cases.
Another absurd reason that appeared in a televised interview was that “these doctors need a lesson from time to time so that they work properly.”Really? If any working official was not doing his job properly according to your standards and resorting to violence/abuse became an accepted solution, we won’t be able to differentiate between episodes of Office-Office and Roadies. Of course, this reason is still less absurd than “Gussa aa gaya, toh maar diya”, which may or may not be the motto of most cities in Haryana. Not everything in a health-care setup is the doctors’ prerogative, as the infrastructure, as well as functioning, is dependent on a lot of other people, including the government and the bureaucracy, who will never bear the brunt of public violence, probably because they have seen people who seem mythological to most doctors, such as young, healthy security guards.
Of course, there is a lot of evil in this world, and we cannot deny that some doctors may not be operating as per required ethical standards. Yet, violence is never the answer, because the first line of Hippocrates’ oath makes sense for the patients too. Maybe considering it a humble request: Firstly, do no harm.
The patients’ views:
The healthcare system is infested with problems like corruption, inadequacy, impatience and apathy. The government hospitals are over-crowded where the doctors and staff may not be enough to cater to everyone, whereas the private and corporate hospitals may care about you only as long as you keep paying hefty sums of money. In such a scenario, how can anyone expect a patient or a family member not to get angry and vent out?
May be the anger is misdirected, but it’s also about sending a message. No one can mess with the politicians because they are- well, politicians. That leaves the doctors and the staff, ready and available, at the spot for some indiscriminate thrashing, so that the world can know of the problems the public faces. Mostly, there will be no satisfactory legal action against that, because the politicians wantthe same public to elect them again.
Some doctors hardly interact with the patients, and at times it seems misleading and suspicious. What else can you feel about a doctor spending more time explaining finances and negligible time explaining the medications in a handwriting that even another doctor won’t be able to read properly? Of course, the media does the rest. The public is always sceptical of the doctors’ actions these days because they read reports of organ-trafficking, leaching money off patients on ventilators, and gross negligence almost on a daily basis. Many reports may just be allegations, but a lot of reports are true as well. It may not be the only cause, but it is a strong inciting factor for using violence.
The public image of a visit to a hospital for any ailment has been reduced to physical suffering, financial setback and a doctor who will not seem interested to involve with you. While he may have his reasons for that, the public has its own reasons for how it behaves as well.
While there is no end to this debate, both the parties could extend a hand in solving this crisis, and I use the term crisis because I feel this lapse of trust is nothing less than that. The doctors need to show empathy and try to go an extra mile for the patient and the patients need to stop resorting to violence. Of course, major role lies with the police and the government: to protect the interest of the public and the soul of the noble profession called medicine.