The Right Decision
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Side side side” shouted the wardboy and relatives running with the stretcher with a bleeding body upon it.
Dr. Amit, the junior resident doctor, rushed forwards, wearing gloves. With a great difficulty he had qualified for the surgical residency, winning in a competition over lacs of MBBS graduates. He wanted to do heroic good, save lives and make the best of every opportunity to do so. This was his posting at a peripheral small hospital. What he couldn’t treat here, and after his duty hours, he was supposed to refer cases to the bigger center about an hour away. His duty hours were over for today, and he was preparing to go home.
The 11 year old boy had had multiple injuries, a fractured leg bone, and also a head injury. He was drowsy, and already had had a vomiting. Dr Amit started an IV line, then began to clean the bleeding sites, applying pressure bandages , while preparing to suture the major bleeders. Simultaneously, he asked questions to the relatives about what happened.
The bike that the boy was riding pillion with his father had slipped, and they had fallen on the road, an autorickshaw behind them had run over the child. The father was almost unhurt. As he told the details, Dr. Amit realized that the father and two relatives accompanying him were drunk.
In a few minutes, Dr. Amit had contained the bleeding. His cellphone kept ringing. It was already 11 pm, but he had informed his wife that his schedule was unpredictable today. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The nurse received a landline call and came to him, whispering “Dr. Amit, your wife just called. Your son has a high grade fever and is vomiting, has become drowsy. She is taking her to a pediatrician. She has asked you to call as soon as possible”. Then the nurse said, with a more cautious whisper, “You can refer this case to the higher center, I will complete the paperwork. I think you must attend your son, this is too late for your wife to travel alone”.
Dr. Amit’s heart sank. His two year old son was his life. He couldn’t concentrate. He remembered what every medical teacher had taught him: don’t abandon the patient in emergency, but then he felt guilty for abandoning the duty of a father. He called up his wife, she was already crying. “You should be with us right now, I am worried” she said. “I will try and come asap” he replied. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He then called the patient boy’s father. By now, over 15-20 people had gathered with the drunk father. All of them anxious and aggressive, many drunk too. As he explained the child’s condition, one of the inebriated “bouncer-type” man came forward, and shouted, filmy style “If something happens to my nephew, we will burn down this hospital”. The two-strong security staff at the hospital, malnourished and underpaid, added to the pathos of the situation.
They called up their municipal councilor, who came over like the owner of the hospital, and added to the threats in a more dramatic and abusive language. After all, elections were approaching, and public needed impressing.
Dr. Amit saw the crowd. He knew by experience what a drunk crowd can do if things turned critical. Mob mentality becomes the law in lawless Indian towns. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He wanted to help the child. He also wanted to reach his own son asap and be with him. He wanted to be the hero and the savior for both. Staying here would mean risking mob anger and life in case things went wrong, for none of his fault.
The society would automatically presume that he must have been rude to the patient, that he must have let the patient die for more money, that he must have abused the relatives etc., and the intellectual b******* in the society would start their sermons about how doctors should learn to communicate compassionately with a life-threatening drunk mob. Legal luminaries would ask him to “accept risk to life or quit job” while delivering judgements from airconditioned offices surrounded by heavy security, working for five hours a day and sumptuous vacations in spite of gigantic backlogs.
Whereas, if he actually was killed by the mob today, none of the above: the govt., the law, the relatives, the media or the society would ever bother to ask what happened to his kid, his family. A dead doctor, like a doctor who is not immediately needed, is an instantly forgotten doctor. His family may go through hell, who cared? There was no example of a good doctor’s family being cared for by the society if something happened to that doctor while saving lives.
The child’s mother came over, and begged him to save her child. He decided to wait, he couldn’t decline. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
His wife called “The pediatrician has admitted our son. She has sent blood for urgent tests” she sounded terrified. He reassured her.
Just as he spoke upon his cell, another lady, a local politician, started shouting at him, asking why he was not being more pro active, why the patient wasn’t talking, and threatened that Dr. Amit’s name would be mud in the media tomorrow if the child did not improve immediately.
Dr. Amit was now relieved of his dilemma.
He had made up his mind as to what was the right thing to do.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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