Monthly Archives: July 2019

Best Option: A Patient’s Birthright. A Message For Upcoming Good Doctors.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“He told us he had seen and operated many cases and has a good experience” the sobbing wife told. Her husband, who was operated by a doctor notorious for his gigantic claims of “Curing Everything” with greyzone treatments, procedures and risky surgeries. The patient had walked into the hospital for a simple intervertebral disc prolapse surgery and was operated. The surgery had gone terribly wrong, and the patient had lost power in both legs, his bladder and bowel control.

Complications can happen in any case, and the best of the doctors are helpless in the face of some complications. That said, there are also doctors who overshoot their skills to do something they should not. can not, and cause damage to the patient. Both of these lead to excessive reaction, defamation and anger about the medical profession. It is the second case that needs attention here.

It is indeed necessary that patients must get emergency care. This is the most misused reason quoted to go on treating patients beyond one’s knowledge, specialty, experience and wisdom. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I am a Neurologist. I have done MBBS, then MD in Medicine, then DM in Neurology. Now that Neurology becomes my final specialty, although I have conducted deliveries as a qualified MBBS during my internship, although I have treated heart attacks during my MD residency and later practising as an MD, I should now NOT conduct deliveries or treat heart attacks unless there’s no specialist available in the town within reasonable timeframe. There also are some neurologists better trained than me in some subspecialties like stenting of the brain’s blood vessels or in muscle diseases, so if a patient can benefit with a better opinion, I must refer him/ her to such a specialist. However this is the most flouted ethic in medical practice today. “Änyone Treat Anything” has become the traffic equivalent in India, and this is causing enourmous damage to the reputation of our profession.

When specialists are available, Depression should only be treated by a qualified psychiatrist. Heart patients must be seen by cardiologists, stroke and brain diseases by neurologists or neurosurgeons. There are even priorities of which cases should be treated or not by physicians and surgeons. In the rural areas, where there is scarcity of specialists, an MBBS or MD doctor can actually handle almost every emergency in every specialty. Thanks to these doctors, rural India still gets excellent emergency care. But there is medical care beyond emergency. In Urban areas, where specialists are available, patients should be given an option to obtain the best opinion for their condition. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The fact remains that the best care is only possible with the best qualified and experienced specialist in that illness, and this is blatantly denied to many deserving patients. “Ï can treat each and everything” has become a stupid boast. This leads not only to unnecessary or incomplete investigations, but also to dangerous outcomes. Fierce ‘business’competition especially encouraged at corporate hospitals has fuelled this practice. Innocent patients are often misguided and taken for a ride by those practising “cross-specialty” medicine, trespassing their area of expertise under the blanket titles of ‘Émergency’. Overconfidence is the first face of a bad doctor.

Such doctors then investigate the patient haphazardly, delay the whole process till diagnosis, and referred to the right specialist. Some cunning doctors invite the specialist for a single consultation to make the right diagnosis, then once they get the diagnosis, google and treat the patient with bookish knowledge rather than wisdom that comes only with experience. Some call the specialists only when the case gets complicated. The specialist does not have a moral right to tell the patient or family that their treatment is incorect, delayed or under a wrong specialist. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is also the duty of a specialist that the referred patient is correctly investigated, that the referring doctor, general practitioner or family physician is involved in the care of a referred patient, and after the issue is resolved the patient is referred back for follow up with their original doctor.

Sometimes, only invasive / operative options are informed to the patient where noninvasive or medical treatment options are available with comparable efficacy. This again is denying te patient the best options. Most qualified postgraduate doctors follow the ethics and restrict themselves to their wisdombase. The few who are “aggressive and invasive”bring a bad name to the whole profession. Amplifying the severity and painting a bad pictiure to push patient into choosing a particular option must be avoided, so should falsely underplaying the risks involved or a bad prognosis. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The only way out for this malady is that doctors self-regulate good practices and start informing the patient about this. Patients must be educated to obtain the correct specialist’s opinion very early in the course of their illness, they must also learn to boldly ask their treating doctor which specialty is best qualified to treat their condition. Medical Insurance companies should deny insurance claims if the patient is not treated under care of the right specialist. Ego should never be a part of any medical process. My teachers have referred me neurology cases, and I have referred my cardiology/ psychiatry/ rheumatology or other cases to my students qualified in those respective specialties. The day I became desperate to treat what I am not qualified or experienced to treat, I will quit medical practice.

Most doctors try their best to do good to their patients. However, the patients’ birthright to the best treatment option or specialist should never be denied to them. Every patient has a right to know who is the best specialist to treat their condition, and a complete picture of all treatment options available from which they can choose. Most patients, after such discussions, trust their doctor to choose the best option. Every doctor should then proudly choose what is best for his / her patient.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Mathematics Of Kindness

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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Are you coming, doctor, or shall we file a complaint? We will go to the police if you don’t come in an hour”.

It was about 12 noon on a Sunday. My sister and her family were visiting for three days, this would be our only lunch together in this year. All other days I am in the hospital at the lunch hour.

A teenager was admitted for last two days with repeated alleged episodes of fainting with unconsciousness. His friends and family were all at the hospital, calling incessantly from different numbers. They were given my cell number by a colleague as he thought it was an emergency. I had seen the patient four times in last two days, rushing from the OPD as there were alarming calls. We had done all the necessary tests and found nothing wrong with the kid, we had concluded that he was malingering / faking these episodes. A neurologist has many tricks to unmask the truth. We had explained the facts to his family, a psychiatrist had confirmed this, and scheduled a meeting with the family on Monday. Till then we had added anti-anxiety pills and told the family to be patient. All the vital parameters were normal. I had explained the family to be patient.

My boss called, he was frustrated too. “Ja ke dekh le ek bar (Go and see him once). Some minister just called for him” he said.

Excusing myself from the lunch, I reached hospital. The teenager’s girlfriend was standing in panic by his side, crying while he was ‘unconscious’. The brother and friends raised their voices: “Why is this happening, doctor, why don’t you do something? Why is he not responding to the treatment? It is three days now. He is suffering so much”.

I am trained as a doctor to tolerate anger, frustration, anxiety, stupidity, bitterness or accusations, but I refuse to tolerate drama.

“I have explained to you many times. This is not real unconsciousness. A psychiatrist will have a meeting with your family tomorrow, till then there’s nothing more we can do”.

“What if he dies? What if you are wrong?” shouted the relative. I did not have an answer. I left the ward after messaging my boss, also asking him to transfer the case under someone else. The next day my psychiatrist friend called me. The teenager’s girlfriend was from another religion, parents on both sides had opposed their marriage, and this illness was their “brilliant solution” to get the parents to change their minds and agree. Cheap drama!

There’s no mathematics to kindness, we have all been taught. Do good, be compassionate and don’t expect any returns. People take advantage, but that is Their nature, you be yourself, kind and compassionate.

I was once returning from my Goa visit, there were long queues of frustrated people. Two apparently rich Indian tourists walked in, typically dressed for a Goan vacay. They saw the long lines, changed their faces, and rushed to the front of the line. One of these approached a foreigner in the line: “Excuse me, we will miss the flight… we were stuck in traffic.. my sister is sick, I must reach Delhi in time”. The foreigner, knowing that these were blatant lies, still allowed him to go ahead of himself. Kindness is almost a compulsion. Once on the other side of security, these “line-jumping liars” had the obvious expression upon their face: “Ullu banaya tum sabko (We made a fool of y’all)”.

At the hospital entrance, I often meet a paraparetic man in his scooter for the disabled. He usually blocks the hospital entrance with his three-wheeler scooter parked there while he talks at leisure with his friends. If anyone honks, they all play this “Can’t you see he is disabled? How rude!” card, intended to make others feel guilty. Even when it is an ambulance or a doctor’s vehicle, he will intentionally slowly move from the spot.

Every doctor, almost every day, meets people who blatantly lie: to bypass waiting lines, to ‘finish off with parent’s health issues over the weekend’, or to get concesions, free treatment. Some lie to exploit kindness and compassion, some to exploit financially. There are no guidelines defining an emergency and the charges for such “pseudo emergencies”. A doctor on duty must always resopnd to an emergency, but if off duty, he should be able to refuse cases on a holiday. All government hospitals have a 24/7 emergency department, the patient can be taken there.

Recently heard that an Indian lawyer charged in crores to an Indian client stuck on an European airport for a legal advice in an emergency. There were no cries about compassion, kindness or even patriotism. What should a doctor charge for a pseudo-emergency, especially when a precious holiday is wasted?

When I discharged this case, they asked me when to follow up. I replied without hesitation: “Never with me”.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Secret Illness Of Doctors

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

She threw the file upon my table.

“I have no relief doctor. This giddiness is killing me. None of the medicines ever works. No doctor is able to understand my illness. Just give me some tablet and end my life” she was shouting and crying. Her parents accompanying her looked at me with anger and disdain.

She had been to many speciaalists earlier. Most earlier doctors had “wisely shuttled her off to another specialist” due to her hysterical behavior. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I ordered a coffee for her and her parents, asked them to calm down, and explained that I had not found any abnormality upon her physical examination. I told them once again that sometimes we do not recognise stress playing upon our minds. We all think that we are supermen or superwomen who can tolerate any mental activity, behavior or abuse of our physical and mental capacity. Explained, they calmed down, open for suggestions. I referred them to an excellent psychiatrist colleague.

My colleague emailed me the next day after meeting them. The girl was being sweetly pressurised by her family for marriage, and the fear of having to leave the “overcaring and comfort” of her parents was stressing her out. She dramatically improved with counseling for the whole family and medicines for her. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Only recently, a case of bleeding in the brain due to high BP was quite critical, and the entire family kept blaming, screaming at and in general mentally screwing the doctor’s team as the patient did not improve as quickly as they expected. Patients with bleeding in the brain may take months to improve. The worst ‘shouter’ in this case was the patient’s elder son. Many days after the patient improved, the family revealed that this elder son had had a continuous fight with his father, the patient, for many days prior over property, and on the night before admission he had slapped his father. That’s probably why the patient’s BP had shot up, causing bleeding in the brain. They had never told us this part earlier.

This is a form of abuse that almost every medical practitioner faces on a daily basis. Quarrels and stresses at home, guilts and anxieties, work pressures, irregular and atrocious lifestyles, eating habits and addictions, relationship frustrations of all kinds, personal failures and insecurities are some of the common reasons angry patients and their families unburden themselves upon the medical practitioner. Many want to avoid in-laws, pregnancy, transfers, heavy duty etc.Many do not follow medical advice and experiment upon themselves. Most of these blame doctors for their continuing ill health, little realising that the actual medicine is omitting the cause of their stress. The doctor can only help one identify this cause, suggest strategies to deal with it, but the actual action has to come from the patient and family. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Doctor Abuse” is common all over the world, but in India it also converts into frank violence. Blaming ‘compassionate communication failure” by the doctor is a joke, a society where even the closest family members do not understand each other for years, how does one expect a doctor to make someone strange ‘understand” a complicated situation? Will our courts and police “explain and communicate effectively” with criminals so that they do not commit crimes again, or will they “warn and punish” the abusers and miscreants? Abuse and violence are NEVER justified in any civil society.

The stress of such “Doctor Abuse” is phenomenal! It has now become so common, that many doctors have stopped admitting patients, many have reduced work hours, and some have even quit the profession. “Excessive stress and fear of abuse” is a secret illness of almost all doctors now!

If a doctor wanted his patients to suffer or die, why will he/ she even go to the hospital? There’s better money in almost all other intellectual professions, why would one choose to spend a lifetime amongst the sick and dying? Most doctors are doing their best for making the patient happy. A little understanding and cooperation from our society will encourage the good doctors to be better, and the bad doctors to follow their example. Violence and force will only worsen the situation. Doctor abuse must go. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Always praying for the best health of patients and now, even doctors!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Harassed Patriot

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir Can I come to meet you this Wednesday? I am in Delhi right now, I will be coming to Pune on Tuesday to see my parents” Dr. Aman asked. He sounded different from his usual jovial self. I was with a patient.

“Sure! Everything alright with you?” I asked hesitantly.

“I will come and see you sir, I want to tell you something”.

I finished my OPD and went to the cafetaria, feeling nostalgic. Dr. Aman was a brilliant student from one of my earliest batches. You know, when you have just passed out Neurology DM, and you are a teacher to those 3-4 years younger to you. It’s a guarded friendly relation more than a teacher-student one. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

His parents were uneducated, his father ran a grocery shop in a small town. Aman had mostly stayed in charity hostels almost all his school and college days. He had maintained a high merit but also a very polite behavior, enabling him to get support from his teachers. I met him first during his last year of MBBS, I was in the last year of my MD Medicine. We became friends because both of us were night owls, preferring to study late in peace. The city bus-stand was about two miles away from the hostel, and we went there together to snack and have tea etc. early morning at 4 AM, after having studied till then. We did not discuss anything academic, we were more into Richard Bach and Ayn Rand stuff. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Once during that 4 AM walk to the bus stand, he said “I want to do the best for my country, Dr. Rajas. My dream is to open a hospital where all poor patients can get the best treatment completely free. Not the ‘charity’class cheap and superficial treatment, but the best treatment that there can be anywhere upon earth”.

“I agree, I want to do something similar too, but where will the funds come from? World class treatment will mean world class doctors, staff, technology, set-up and even world class medicines. Who will sponsor it all?”I asked. This thought crosses the mind of almost every medical student while studying medicine, because there’s no one else other than medical students and resident doctors who witnesses the real health-related suffering of the poor. All the rants of socialists, politicos and other famous preachers die when they actually have to help from their own pockets to treat the poor. Every Indian doctor does it daily, without advertising.

Dr. Aman spoke as if thinking aloud: “Yes, I know it is difficult. But I was thinking that I will urge our society, lawmakers and others to fund my hospital for the poor by using the funds donated by people for greater purposes. The taxpayer should have a choice to directly deposit tax in a fund meant exclusively for healthcare for the poor. Highest donations in India are made for religious purposes, to various religious places. What best use for these billions than to start a free hospital? Will any God of any religion not be happy if those donations are used for the poor patient’s treatment?” he innocently asked. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That thought never left me.

After my MD I went to Mumbai for DM, and Aman came there in a year for his MD. We caught up occasionally at night in the famous tea stall opposite KEM Hospital. Dr. Aman earned himself the best reputation that a doctor needs: hardworking, studious, and very well behaved with the patients. He was already handsome enogh to be envied by his colleagues, but kindness, compassion and genius gave him an edge above others in everything. When I left Mumbai to go to Canada, he was still studying there. Upon my return, I came to know that Dr. Aman has joined a government hospital near Delhi. We almost lost contact. Then this call. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He came on Wednesday as planned. I was shocked, his handsome face had a large raw scar.

“What happened?”I asked.

“Two weeks ago, I was in the casualty, when a young lady was brought in unconscious and gasping. She was frothing at mouth, had many bruises on her body. Her husband and two others accompanying him were drunk , incoherent. There was a smell of insecticide, so I started treatment accordingly. There were no ventilators available at our hospital, we have requested the government many times but were told there were no funds. We were trying our best, but within minutes she passed away. As it was a suspected poisoning, a postmortem was necessary. We advised so, but the relatives declined. I explained them many times that a postmortem is legally necessary. Then they called a corporator, who came with his goons. One of them attacked me with a knife. The nurses tried to restrain him, but he attacked them too. Four of us were injured by the time that police arrived. They did the postmortem, the report says that lady was killed”

“That I could have survived, Dr. Rajas. But the next day we were told to withdraw police compaints which we had made against the attacker with knife and the corporator. The administration refused to stand by us”. Dr. Aman was now charged, angry and almost tearful. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I don’t want to work here! Many times over now, I have realised that people do not want good doctors, they want chained, frightened slaves who cater to their illegal, immoral demands. I wanted to serve mother India” he now sobbed “but apparently mother India does not want the likes of me now. Last three years I had received many offers from UK and many other countries, but I had proudly declined. Now I have accepted an offer from Oman. They are paying me twenty times what I am earning here, with a two-month paid annual vacation, free housing and food. I feel bad, I don’t want to go, yet I do not want to work here now. I came to you because I have faith in your advice, you are like my elder brother. Please tell me what I should do”.

After thinking a lot, I told him: “You should do what ensures your peace of mind. You can help Indian patients from anywhere in the world, or you can help them from within India”. I did not want to force him to stay back in India, because I was sincerely afraid about his safety

Dr. Aman left the country yesterday, like thousands of brilliant doctors in last twenty years. I feel as if a part of me died when he told me his decision, and the only thing I could say to him was : “I understand. To do good to others, you must first be safe, alive and at peace with yourself. Take care”.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Doctors from various states are welcome to translate this article in local language without changes, and post it with their name along with the original author credit. This will help us spread the message.

I am also translating this to Marathi.