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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