A Dangerous Disease Called ‘Relatives’
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“What all can happen, doctor?” asked the young lady accompanying her father.
He had had a vertigo for two years, now had developed headaches and had seen best of the specialists. Some of them had advised him an MRI scan, but the daughter who was “in-charge” of her father had decided to wait. They had undergone many treatments simultaneously: allopathic, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Herbal, Diet, plus various random suggestions by relatives (almost all patient’s relatives are experts on all medical topics except actually paying bills and donating blood).
The father, a victim of experimentation by a health enthusiast daughter whose profession was law, was visibly anxious and almost shaking.
After examining him, I told them that there were some soft signs, but also that a physical examination may often be inconclusive, hence it was wise to investigate. What must be done must be done. A true Saint, scientist, soldier or doctor will always live by those words. I must stress the need for the right investigations. I told the daughter that he must undergo a scan. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
That’s when she asked “What are the possibilities?”
Imagine an anxious person sitting in front of you, dead scared of death or illness. He / she is praying God or providence that the doctor does not use and scary words like cancer, heart attack, paralysis, dementia, parkinson’s or early death. No one likes these words, the doctor likes them least. Almost every doctor thinks of the patient’s mental status before choosing the words in such cases. Some patients can even commit suicides if they are too stressed with the fear of long / grave disease.
However, the hyper daughter refused to be subtle.
I told her “You can ask me all the questions you want. But please remember that some answers may scare the patient, Also, I may not have all the answers at this point.’
“Can this be something dangerous? Like cancer? Can this be an emergency? Can it cause death? If so we will do the MRI today itself. Otherwise we will wait.” She said.
To protect the patient from death, suffering and disease is a doctor’s duty, but the law does not allow the doctor to protect the patient from such insensitive relatives. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Madam, there are limitations of physical examination,and we cannot see inside his body. Sometimes we find things wrong inside that can be cured with the correct early treatment. That is the reason we have tests and scans”. I told her patiently.
“But what are the chances of this being a cancer or something life threatening? If at all the scan shows something dangerous, can you guarantee it will be cured?” she asked.
I gave another shot of adrenaline to my patience. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“How does that help you?” I asked her, “Even if the chance of a dangerous possibility is low, say 5 %, will you take a chance on your father’s life just to avoid investigations? How can I guarantee the treatment or cure of something we both don’t know yet? By the way, what is your objection to get his scans done?”
“We will do the scan if you say this is urgent” she said.
My patience kissed me a goodbye.
“It is indeed necessary, I cannot say it is urgent. Now I must see another patient.” I replied. Then looking at her anxious father, I reassured him “It is a very low chance that there will be anything dangerous. Please relax. And we have cures for many diseases now, I am with you. Don’t worry”.
“Then can we wait for the MRI?” the daughter was incurable.
“No” I replied, calling in another patient.
I received many messages for next few days from her and her invisible brother asking if the scan was really necessary, where was it done cheapest, etc. I didn’t reply.
They returned after a week. The MRI showed a tumor causing pressure effects on the vital areas of lower brain. This indeed was an urgency, if not emergency. I told the daughter so.
“How come he developed a tumor? He never had it earlier. No one in our family had it ever” she asked angrily, “Is it the side effect of all the medicines he has taken in last two years?”.
I had almost forgotten in which society I was practicing. Education does not always convert into common sense. Money, skimpiness and hatred replace logic here. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“In most cases, a brain tumor is not the effect of commonly used medicines. I don’t know the contents of all the medicines you tried upon him. But the delay in doing tests is one definite major factor that your father has suffered so long”. I told her. What must be said must be said!
She changed the topic, a knack every doctor must learn from some lawyers!
The patient has now undergone a surgery by one of the best neurosurgeons, and fortunately the tumor has turned out non cancerous. His headaches and vertigo have gone. However his anxiety and fear will take a long time to go, he is on the medication for that.
The daughter has changed a lot too. The last time she visited for her own headaches, I told her to get a check scan done, and she showed me the reports the same evening. They were normal, she is happy now!
Many patients suffer for years, develop disability and some die due to such dangerous relatives who experiment upon them, delaying investigations and treatment. The most common purpose is saving money, but there are also whims and illogical, dangerous treatments without the knowledge of the contents and interactions between medicines of different medical and quackery streams. The doctors who try hard to save the damage in the last moments often become victims of criticism. This dangerous disease called “Relatives” who suggest everything but disappear when the patient truly needs them has become rampant in our society!
As for my patience, I had to take it for a long night drive and feed it a lot of icecream that day to agree to return to stay with me again.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
(Yes, some doctors take advantage and earn money through tests. This is definitely wrong, but the price of delayed and denied tests is far more. In fact, many relatives make that an excuse to avoid spending for the tests. It is conveniently forgotten that almost all essential tests are available at govt. / charity hospitals at a negligible cost).
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