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Atrocity on Doctors: Save the Life-Savers

Recently, doctors from different states in the country have gone on protest over a spate of assaults on their colleagues by patients’ relatives. The placards in their hands that read “don’t harm your life savers,” give voice to their anguish.

However, people have questioned the ethics of the protesting doctors whose strike has caused untold misery to the patients and their families.

A few years ago when a doctor was suggesting a particular line of treatment which involved a major surgery, I voiced my concerns regarding the surgery, based on hearsay.
I remember his words that, people always highlight the bad that happened to them. There are millions of operations that are successful, but rarely are they focused on.

The words made a deep impact and after a successful surgery, I thanked the doctor and his team in a write up. I have come across some remarkable doctors who have been true to their profession, but like in most professions, there are a few rotten apples in this basket too. And we are all guilty of chastising the rotten ones, ignoring the sweeter apples.

As in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mark Antony said at Caesar’s funeral, “The evil that men do lives after them; but the good is oft interred with their bones.” Similarly, the wrongs of the doctors are squarely blamed on them, while the good done by them is attributed to the bounty of god or the good karma of the patients!

Behind the scenes
I asked an intern about what goes on behind the scenes. He, like most doctors, was upset with the attack on the doctor. How fair is it to harm a person who was earning his livelihood by saving someone’s life?

He said, interns sometimes work for straight 36 hours. Their training involves doing their best to save a patient’s life, keeping in mind the emotionally charged environment that they need to deal with.

He said that some times doctors err and many repeat tests are done for proper diagnosis of the patient.

Besides, not all cases are straightforward and each case demands a high level of commitment from the doctor. And, the patient-doctor relationship is not all that simple either.

Many care-givers are incapable of taking a rational decision as they are surrounded by a number of relatives, each coming up with a different suggestion.

Moreover, many of the patients or care-givers do not wholly trust the doctors. Based on a Google search, they feel that they are better equipped to tell the doctors what to do, little realising that each case is different. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Blame game
The intern ends with a query, “isn’t it easier to blame somebody when things go wrong, and who better than a doctor who has failed to help the patient despite his best efforts?”

When my octogenarian father suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital, I had to decide whether he needed to be put on a ventilator or not. There were umpteen phone calls insisting that I not sign in the papers which might let my father be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. But when I saw my father’s laboured breathing, I just grabbed the pen to sign, not sure if I was doing right or wrong. I don’t want to re-live that time ever again.

The doctors were open about the criticality of my father’s situation. The rational brain knew that he had lived a full life, yet my heart refused to let him go, always wondering if something could be done to make him better.

When his end came, we brought him home, as we did not have the required numbers to hurt the hospital or the doctor!

In the book, ‘Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,’ author Atul Gawande says that doctors are trained to keep their patients alive as long as possible. But they are never taught to prepare them to die.

However much we wish for the contrary, death, though painful, is inevitable. And to target the ones who tried their best to save the person, is definitely wrong. We need to re-work on the mindset that once we pay for any service, we are the kings and the service provider a slave.

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