Are You Respectable, Doctor?
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Send in the next patient” I told the receptionist.
As no one came in for a few moments, I opened the door. A trembling, shuffling old man in his eighties, standing with the support of his son and daughter in law, was fumbling to remove his sandals outside my door.
“Let it be, it’s ok” I told him.
Smiling, embarrassed that he was unable to move fast, he folded his hands and said ”Namaskar Doctor! You are like a God and your room a temple for me. You give life to so many. I don’t wear sandals in a temple. Let me remove. I am sorry, please give me one minute more”.
It was my turn to be embarrassed. Do I deserve this respect from a stranger just because I am a doctor? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Mr. Wamanrao, who was a teacher before retiring decades ago, walked in. After examining him, I explained to him and his family that he had a degenerative problem of brain that caused imbalance and stiffness. The concerned family asked some questions earnestly.
“Tell them I am old and must leave this world now” said a smiling Wamanrao.
Pausing to think for the right words, I explained them the condition, and told him “At present I do not see a reason to worry. I don’t find anything life threatening in your examination, we will also do some tests. But there is no need to think about an end at this time. You should improve, let us try. And yes, it is very fortunate and enviable that your family loves you so much”. It was impossible for me not to remember my own father.
In tears, he folded his hands, then blessed me by keeping his hand upon my head, and left.
Many patients came in that day, and I kept on thinking: that most of them, especially the illiterates, poor and elderly came with a lot of respect, behaved politely, and followed the instructions well. Some came in bitter with their experiences with some other doctors and hospitals and confessed the reason of their angst. The young, rich and highly educated mostly walked in with a paranoia and refusal to trust. But these were very few, mostly because I don’t dance different for the high class patient. The most difficult class to handle were the uneducated rich and the politico poor, who think everything can be bought, threatened or manipulated, including a doctor. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
This last class offends and frustrates most doctors who work with a feeling of dignity for their profession. Not because they ask too many questions, but because they misbehave, are too arrogant to tolerate, and cannot trust anyone. The last thing that a doctor wants is a trustless patient: it means trouble in future even if the best is done for such a patient. Even if saved from a coma, they will belittle the entire profession and file cases for bills. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
We always claim that some doctors are bad and the good ones bear the brunt, then we must also understand that some patients behave bad, but most others suffer the consequences. The “On-Guard” new generation doctors have now started to become too ‘legally correct’, talking in terms that lack feelings. They are not always wrong, because the law of the land, the crass class of media and many administrators openly badmouth this noble profession that carries the entire healthcare of this country upon their shoulders.
However, we as doctors must also think if we always behave respectably. There still is an inherent respect for the profession, in the minds of most. But if a doctor thinks that he / she should be treated like God just because they have a degree, there is a grave misunderstanding. One must be proud of one’s merit, but the patient shouldn’t have to pay the fees for that pride. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Many doctors are usually well behaved, but we also see very rude, “head in the clouds” type of doctors. A little success, a little affluence, and a ballooning ego is a common picture. Such doctors then refuse to acknowledge the patient (or even their own junior) as another human being to be treated as an equal, with dignity and respect. They will crowd their waiting rooms, make patients wait unnecessarily while they chat / entertain “rich and influential clients” etc. They will behave high handed and rude with patients and juniors, pretend to be in a hurry when the patient starts asking questions and even walk out to see another patient in another room. Many quite senior big doctors actually classify the patients financially, so that the assistant filters out and treats a certain class of patients.
Some doctors talk “only the legal” language to patients who are emotionally disturbed, in a state of shock or grief. The other end is the “Always smile and keep the patient in a state of false hope till they can pay bills” type of doctor, who disappears once the patient cannot pay or takes a bad turn of health. Some doctors do not even follow the common decencies of respecting elders and women. Manners and etiquette are fast disappearing among doctors, it is time to remind ourselves that a doctor is one of the highest respected intellectual in our society, and just like the heroes upon the big screen, many, especially children emulate the good behaviors of doctors too.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande. It is sad that our media, movies and comedy shows take pride in belittling Indian medical profession, considered one of the best in the world, but it is also true that some doctors indeed provide them with a reason to do so. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
No one will salute a doctor just for his / her degrees, experience, post or affluence. If a doctor wants to be respected, he / she must carefully learn to respect others, use the right language, and follow manners and etiquette at his end. There indeed are a minority who will mistreat a doctor, who will take advantage and misunderstand manners as weakness or an inferiority complex. Give them a sincere chance to change their opinion. If they are still paranoid, arrogant or rude, then a doctor must move on, politely refusing to see them again. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In absence of any support from the politicians or media, we must learn to cultivate a positive doctor-patient relationship culture rather than ourselves becoming paranoid. We must learn the new language of “legally correct yet compassionate” medical talk. Patients are an inseparable part of our profession, success and daily life, we cannot be at war with them just because of a few imbeciles.
I myself am not free of mistakes, and I want to continue to improve, for the day that I think I cannot improve anymore, that I am the best, I can no more be a good doctor.
For my birthday tomorrow (07. January), it was necessary that I reminded myself what my parents and the best of my teachers taught me. The best gift life has given me is the ability to be a doctor, and I must take in stride everything that comes with it.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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