© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A 9 year old child with fits / seizures was taken to a renowned Paediatric Neurologist. He started treatment with one of the most commonly recommended (by almost all textbooks) used medicine in the treatment of seizures: carbamazepine. One of the most effective medicine, used since over 50 years in children, that can cause side effects of rashes in less than 1/1000 cases. Still rarely, the side effects can be very severe, causing extensive damage to the skin.
The doctor explained this to the child’s parents, and then started the recommended doses. Pediatric doctors are the best trained doctors in dose calculation, they are more aware than any other specialty about the side effects in general, because children often cannot even speak and parents may not notice some side effects. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Every medicine has side effects. Even vitamins do. Any medicine can potentially cause life threatening reaction, and that’s why the common warning with each medicine: do not use if you are sensitive to this medicine. How will one know whether there will be any allergy / reaction to the medicine without having used it?
Most medicines can cause side effects at high doses, but some can cause dangerous reactions even with the tiniest dose, or test dose. Some medicines (even the one mentioned above) can cause side effects after many months / years of safe use. While the dose dependent (high dose= higher side effect) side effects are somewhat predictable, the ‘idiosyncratic’ (meaning occurring in individual, not all cases, because of the natural tendency of that person) and “allergic” side effects are totally unpredictable, and can be caused by even such common medicines as paracetamol, aspirin, antibiotics or vitamins. Even deaths have been reported after the use of some common medicines, but even in the highly legalized western world, no court holds doctors guilty for the side effects of medicines, if these were discussed and informed to the patient / family. This is against common sense. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
This child unfortunately developed a rare but well known side effect of this drug, called Stevens Johnson Syndrome (severe skin rashes), had to be admitted and treated, it cost them one lac rupees. While we sympathise with the child and the family, and wish them the best recovery and health, this is hardly the mistake of a doctor.
But the forum, in a regressive decision, held the doctor guilty, fined him 90000 rupees. This is beyond ridiculous. The court observed that “ if the doctor knew that this drug can cause side effects, he should not have prescribed it”. Translated intellectually, that means NO DOCTOR CAN PRESCRIBE ANY MEDICINE! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Moreover, what will this court advise for the child now? Every seizure medicine has some rare dangerous side effects. There are no medicines free of side effects. Shall the child be left without treatment now? Which doctor will want to treat such a case? Which court will guarantee that the rarest of the rare side effect cannot happen again in this case, and with such ill-informed forums, the next doctor trying to do good to the child will not be held guilty? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Technically, if using a drug that can cause side effects is a crime as per this court, it should hold everyone concerned guilty: the textbooks / medical bodies that recommend this drug, the pharma which produced it, and even the government which allowed it to be sold. Applying the same logic, if some child developed peanut allergy in a hotel or side effects of pollution and dust by travelling on Bangalore roads, will this court hold the hotelier or the city administration guilty and punish them too? Has this forum/ court banned tobacco and alcohol yet, or will it punish the government for the side effects and thousands of deaths caused by these? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The IMA, other medical bodies, Neurological society, and intellectuals should stand by this doctor who has suffered the mental agony. This decision must be challenged in higher courts.
We regret that some patients suffer side effects, no one should, but at the same time, the “side effects of medicine” is not the doctor’s fault, especially in this case where he had explained the parents about such possibility.
We need medically educated forums and judges who can refrain from populist tendencies.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I respect courts. I respect higher courts more. But I refuse to believe that every decision made by every judge is correct, that every decision is impartial, that it is not affected by pressures. This article is solely based upon the attached news clip. I must admit that this reporter Ms. Meghna Singhania has done an excellent and impartial reporting. Doctors must please stand united against this decision.
The Unholy Medicine
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Close your eyes and take it. Absolutely no reason to worry. It is excellent in improving mental and physical health. It improves memory, skin texture, hair thickness and even vitality” said the medical shop salesman, winking one eye, handing over a big plastic bottle to the posh middle aged couple.
“It is all natural. These products have zero side effects” he said.
“But it costs nearly two thousand rupees” said the wife.
“What’s costlier than your health, mam,? This product is selling so fast, you will come back again to ask for it once you realize how good you feel without all the side effects”.
I had stopped on my way back from the hospital to buy some vitamins from a large medical store on the way. The shop, like all other medical shops now, had far lesser allopathic medicine . Most prominently displayed were sex boosters, chocolates and beauty products, from various pathies and with pics of different Babas. The next most prominent were various “organic” products, from juices to tablets in blingy packaging. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
One common factor was prominently printed matter on most such products: “Guaranteed to cure”, “100% natural, free from side effects” “No adverse effects” “100 % Scientific secret formula” etc. Some packets claimed to even cure incurable diseases. Most of these did not have the content printed. Most of these also had valid licenses.
The shop owner and staff didn’t know that I was a doctor. Out of curiosity, I looked for the same bottle on the shelves, and read what it was that the assistant so confidently vouched for. It was a juice of some routine vegetables, with an additional “unspecified” herbal formula. It was made locally, and wasn’t refrigerated. The cleanest ‘Natural” food we cook at home with love, even “Maa ke haath ka Gajar ka Halwa” rots in three days if kept without refrigeration. I wondered what magic formulas kept these “Natural products” free of the millions of microorganisms. But then, I had no right or authority to question the massacre of scientific medicine. I was merely a doctor, not a highly uneducated politician or a religious preacher. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Just last week we had in critical care unit, a lady from an affluent family, who was given some precious powder by a “self-proclaimed” natural products expert, (wife of a politico in a taluka place). The 100 grammes powder had cost 45 thousand rupees, and came with a guarantee of “reducing wrinkles and hairfall”. The patient had consumed it for a week, and came to the casualty with a convulsion on the eighth day, found to have poisonous levels of heavy metals in her blood. Few months ago we had a young man who almost died because of clotting in the brain, after taking some injection of a “secret formula” given by his Gym trainer!
Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms in some of these “natural” products grow for a few weeks, and cause infections, many a times life-threatening. This usually happens after 2-8 weeks or even later, when the patient has long back finished the doses. Some have heavy metals/ ingredients that may cause kidney / liver problems or other diseases months or years after consumption. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Wake Up, India! Long gone is the era of “secret formulas”. It is the right of every consumer to know what is the content of every medicine he / she bought. Unfortunately, the “Planned propaganda against allopathy to sell the products of the influential” blinds even the well educated. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. There is a huge number of people who ask “some medicine” for all their complaints from a medical shop salesperson to avoid paying the fees of a qualified doctor. This qualified / unqualified pharmacy assistant, without even touching the patient, makes his own diagnosis/ conclusion and decides the treatment, the patient happily pays for it, thinking that he / she has saved a lot by not visiting a doctor!
The very governments which cap the prices of allopathic medicines allow other pathies and “homemade remedies and secret formulas” to be sold for the cost of gold and diamonds. Apparently many people have enough money to buy extremely costly herbals, beauty / personal care products, chocolates and sex boosters, but suddenly become poor when a scientific medical product by a standard international pharma company is to be paid for.
In India, movies make 100-500 crores, cricket matches fetch billions in betting and tickets, most of the lawmakers are crorepatis, but everyone seems concerned only about the fees of doctors and cost of allopathic medicine!
The same people in administration who ask qualified doctors to reappear for tests to reprove their merit frankly allow rampant “cross pathy”, babas and gurus, hakims and other self-proclaimed experts to keep on selling health products at unimaginably high prices. Imagine the bribes and commission is involved at all levels in the sale of such “natural” products. What more can describe the paradox in Indian Healthcare where aloe, karela (bitter gourd)and doodhi / lauki (bottle gourd) juices sell at a price far higher than many essential medicines? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
No surprise we get many patients now a days, who come with early- age blood clots, digestive problems, severe headaches and vertigo, serious allergic reactions, convulsions, kidney, liver and other metabolic problems, thanks to the “secret and purely natural 100 % scientific formulas absolutely free of side effects” that they had consumed weeks / months / years ago.
Is it impossible for the Courts to act here?
What’s the proof?
There cannot be any proof unless each of these products is scrutinized with the same vehemence that once a famous international noodles brand was scrutinized. There cannot be any proof till the scrutiny and people involved in it are completely corruption and influence free. There cannot be any proof till those in power are involved in the sale of such products. Those who have basic deduction powers intact will know it for themselves. From public transport busses and autorickshaws to malls, there are blatant lies in advertisements selling such health products. The word “Scientific” is now used by almost every such product.
The fact that most of those in power use imported phones and cars, and visit foreign countries for medical treatments is enough clue.
As I paid for my vitamins, I asked the salesman what sold most at his shop.
We all know the answer.
It is not any medicine.And sadly, there appears to be no treatment!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Issued in the interest of everyone who likes to be mentally and physically healthy. Please share unedited for the benefit of your patients.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
If one minister commits a mistake, does the entire government go?
Even the wrong ministers rarely go.
If one doctor / department has committed a mistake, how fair is it to cancel the license of an entire super-specialty hospital, where over a hundred specialists work, many hundred patients are already admitted and many thousand patients follow up for their regular treatment? What about those who had planned major surgeries and treatments there?
There indeed was a grave mistake. The relatives have suffered an immeasurable loss, and this must be investigated and the guilty must be brought to justice. Every doctor feels sympathy for every life lost. This is a science and practice of life where human mistakes are not impossible, they should be scrupulously avoided. If however they do occur, one must not overreact, especially for populist advantages. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Whether it was one person or an entire team that was wrong, they must be tried. But how fair is the action of closing down the entire hospital? Is this not affecting the basic human rights of the other patients, doctors and staff working there?
Is this a good tradition to follow in a country with an already collapsed government healthcare system? Someone has lapsed. Who made the hospital protocols? Who implemented them? Were they followed? Who issued the hospital license without confirming standards? If license was issued that means some standards were defined. If not, why was the license issued in the first place? If these standards were defined, it is easy to find out who was at fault, and take action accordingly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It is well known that corporate / majorhospitals have to pay hefty bribes almost everywhere to get every permission. They are business houses promoted by an administration that cannot deal with the country’s healthcare overload. That is also a reason why some hospitals / teams may not follow standard protocols, and confidently overbill the patients. Why doesn’t the government define the limits of profits on commodities rather than capping doctor’s fees? The answers are simpler to the wise. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
What about the many other good doctors who worked at this hospital, who had joined there as a career, who had bought homes nearby to reach the hospital faster? What about the students who had joined there as post graduates in various specialties? What about the staff?
Was it impossible to hand over the charge to some doctor’s body / organisation or under a competent authority for better running rather than closing down the hospital? The correct action then should have been suspension of the involved department / team till the facts were found out, and after medical and legal opinions, trial as per law. This is what every minister, every administrator, every TDH of any significance demands and gets as a basic right even after grave crimes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
There was of course a basic investigation. Why not exactly find out and take strict action against the medical / non medical administrators or owners involved? Add to this the apathy shown by medical bodies and other hospitals in this case.
Welcome to this glimpse of future that will be commonplace for all hospitals if no one acts now. Populist headlines will never solve the grave healthcare that deficits India faces.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
My sympathies, as those of every good doctor in India, lie with the relatives who have suffered. They must get justice.But that should not be at the cost of destroying the careers of many other medical and non medical people who were not guilty
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Over 1.5 Crore Every Year! That becomes more than ten lacs per month! Wow!!” my student showed me the news that some brilliant engineering students passing out from India were hired by some software biggies in Campus Interviews, “They will start their careers at that salary. That’s life!”
I felt proud, as always, these news and similar have always made me feel that the Indian academic talent has always been looked up to and rewarded by the developed world. The tiny speck of jealousy that we earlier felt for our classmates who went for engineering and had their own homes and cars while we were still finishing internships has faded away long ago. The only regret that sometimes peeps out from the past is that of never having fully enjoyed our teens and youth. The fact that most doctors from India also earn huge salaries in the west as well as the middle east speaks a lot about the flaws in our “Indian” thinking.
“Doctors get respect and that is the best that you can get in life. People think of doctors as Gods. You should never think about money” told every sore-throated, pot bellied and self proclaimed socialist who did not become a doctor, and mostly had no doctor in family. This ranged from our own classmates to the highest administrators in the country.
Over the years, I now feel that even the engineering or other stream’s graduates are almost in the same boat. I cannot wish upon the newer generations what we went through.
What is really making us proud here? That India cannot afford to use its own best talent in any field? That the best in all fields are taken away, because what the best Indian companies can offer them is nowhere near what the world outside offers them? That the best salaries in all government jobs are reserved for bootlickers above the age of 55? That in no field can the government find the young talents superior to white haired yes men? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Or boast with a shameless pride that the most revered Satya Nadellas and Sundar Pichais made in India cannot find career scope in their own country?
Or, while proclaiming “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” (The World Is My Family) on one hand, are we going to perpetually cry the same song of socialism and patriotism, expecting all of them to only follow the examples of the rare (and respectable) ones who chose to shed material life for the country? India needs a million good volunteers in every field who will live and die poor while serving the society. But to force this upon all those who graduate from India is to invite them to leave the country. From politics and administration to Judiciary and lawyers, we need people who will work free or low cost, because the main disease: poverty and illiteracy, is a never ending curse in India. These are the people who choose the governments who throw “low cost everything” crumbs at the society, rather than uplifting the society to respectable self sustaining, paying capacity. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande The lifelong perks of representatives elected for even five years, from any political party are regularly updated, but the salaries and pensions of doctors and other employees who work lifelong are never upgraded without agitations and then only with allegations of greed!
No doctor wants to be a bad doctor, but no doctor wants to spend life in poverty and insecurity.
If at all a doctor decides to do charity and see all patients free/ concessional all his / her life, not only will they be lost to poverty and anonymity, but our government or media will never notice them. All they get is more paperwork to comply with every day, fear of suspension humiliation by the administrators and a salary that’s a shame given their talent and hard work.
There is this curious tendency in India: to force or to beg in the name of charity, social service or patriotism rather than rewarding the talent. There are very few examples of honesty, hard work and talent rewarded without political connections. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Are the medical students any less talented than their counterparts in engineering or other streams? Don’t they study equally hard and work 24/7 many more years before they qualify? Even after that, the highest salary that the government offers the starting doctor (even engineer) is laughable, and if they wish to work at a private/ corporate hospital, they cannot decide the rules of payment strategies. If they must start their own set up, they need huge investments, over fifty permissions, many recurring, every one requiring bribe in some form or other. And whichever one they choose from the three career options above, from day one the society and media will have already presumed them guilty of extracting money from patients, the government and even some judges urging them to understand the feelings of relatives beating up doctors. I wonder how many ministers , judges or media bosses would like to understand the feelings of those who beat them up for something their client/ petitioner didn’t like. The most pathetic part is that while all of the above officers are inaccessible to common man, they still have armed security, and the junior most doctor who faces armed relatives is denied security even by law! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Most top medical graduates and postgraduates, like almost all other streams from India are leaving voluntarily because of this situation. To deal with this, the best options that some governments came up with were long term bonds to force govt. service (without telling anyone where the govt. spends so much on medical education), and canceling permissions to leave India even after the bond is completed. Bravo! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The Hon’ble PM has time and again declared many institutes like AIIMS to be opened across India. This is welcome, but we must also look at the state of conditions and staff in the existing health institutes run by the government. That needs billions for repairs, facilities and hiring better staff. Unless the salary structure for young and talented medical specialists increases , there are no chances of any AIIMS-like institutes running efficiently, they will soon become dirty buildings with low budget staff, where desperate patients are chronically dissatisfied and mobs find chances to vent anger.
Earlier I had immense respect and pride for every doctor who decided to return to India with a positive attitude and a wish to serve the society, their only expectation being living a modestly good life. Now I doubt if they are doing justice to themselves or their family, by choosing a life of financial and personal compromises, where they not only sacrifice, but are still looked upon as “looters”, face a violent society and a prejudiced government.
Ten years ago, I would have told this student of mine “let go of a good life, stay in India, we have a lot to do for our country”. Today, I don’t interfere with their decisions to make a career outside India. Because I love my India as much as any soldier would,and I also love the talented people in it.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please Share Unedited.
The Richest Doctors
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“He needs an urgent bypass surgery. Very risky, high chances of death on table.” the cardiologist told us.
My friend’s father, a businessman, was admitted just after midnight for chest pain and breathlessness. The cardiologist rushed to the hospital within an hour and arranged for an agiography. As my friend’s father did not have any cash upon him, and neither my friend nor myself had sufficient amount in the bank, we requested the cardiologist to please proceed without deposits (most hospitals charge the complete bill to the doctor if the patient does not pay). I told the cardiologist that I was working as a resident doctor. He told me not to worry, signed on the paper that he will be responsible for the bills, and the patient was wheeled into the cathlab. When he came out, the doc told us that patient will need an urgent bypass surgery. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
My friend and his mother were devastated. They were passing throough a bad financial phase, and had no funds ready. The patient himself had taken big loans from few business partners / friends, and started a new venture recently.
“You find out the best heart surgeon, we will try and arrange something” my friend told me while his mother kept on repeating prayers, crying in a corner of the waiting hall.
I spoke to my teachers and found out two names who had excellent results in cardiac surgery. Of course they were fully busy, appointments were difficult to obtain, and the surgical costs were an embarrassing thing to bargain: knowing that the best will come at a cost.
“Don’t bargain, I want my father to be operated by the best, I don’t want the doctor to feel that we will skimp. I will arrange somehow”my friend told me.
The best advantage of becoming a doctor came my way to help me: many medical doors open easily for the co-professionals as with any other profession. The same evening I was sitting in front of one of the best Cardiac surgeons in Mumbai with my friend. The VVIPs in the crowded waiting room angrily looked on at two youngsters allowed in ahead of them. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“He needs surgery urgently for sure. I will plan it tomorrow, although I will have to readjust my schedule, but you will have to shift him to this hospital where I am operating the other case too. We will arrange for the cardiac ambulance, don’t worry.”said the surgeon. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir, how much will be the charge?” I asked, hesitant and already scared of the answer.
He replied without a blink. Our hearts skipped a beat together, and my friend looked at the ground with wet eyes.
“Sir”, I said pleadingly “Can we get some discount?”
My friend squeezed my hand, and said firmly, but with tears: “No Sir, please proceed, please do the best for my father. We just want him to recover. We will arrange for whatever charges you say”.
“Don’t worry. Please sign the papers so my juniors will arrange to shift your father here early tomorrow morning. I will do my best”said the heart surgeon.
That night, my friend called up many relatives and his father’s friends to get some help. As expected he got none. But after an hour, he started receiving many calls from those who had lent money to his father. They wanted it back immediately. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
By early morning, most of those ‘friends’ from whom the patient had borrowed money gathered in the hospital. They had a meeting with my friend’s mother, who pleaded them and assured that all the money will be returned once the patient recovers.
“What’s the guarantee? We heard that he may die during the operation. We cannot afford that” said the calm leader of the group.
“Please don’t talk such words, I beg of you” cried the lady, visibly torn by what she was facing, “I will sell our house and return your money, we just need some help till his surgery. Please wait for a week”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
As my angry friend got up to reply, his mother asked him to just shut up. She pleaded the group with folded hands “I promise you, we will sell our house and return your money”.
The group whispered for some time.
“We will wait only if your husband signs that on a bond paper before going in for the surgery. Otherwise we will block his ambulance”. The leader said.
While shifting the patient, a ‘break’ in the ambulance journey was arranged during which the patient on the stretcher was taken into a ‘friend’s’ home on the way to the hospital, made to sign various papers while still wearing his oxygen mask, and only then did the lenders allow him to be shifted to the next hospital. Business is business, and our society condones everything in the name of money, except when paying for health. Along with my friend, I earned quite a big scar that day.
He was taken in the Operation Theater. Inside, the cardiac surgeon’s junior told the boss about the horrific “break” they had to take. The cardiac surgeon didn’t react.
The surgery was successful, the patient was discharged in seven days. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The cardiac surgeon didn’t charge the patient. He did not mention it to us too, we came to know during discharge. We went again to thank him. He was smiling now.
“It’s Ok. Carry it forward” he told me, then turned to my friend “You too”.
We touched his feet and left.
As we finished our coffee that night at the famous cafe on Marine Drive, my friend told me “Earlier I thought there is no money in medical profession, you people work too hard for what you get. Doctors are kind of “Use and Throw“ community. Now I feel, you people are still the richest whether you earn or not! That cardiac surgeon, by just not charging my father even after saving his life, owns everything I will ever earn in my life! Thank you!”
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Based upon a true story.
Please Share Unedited
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).
Please share unedited.
The Business Of Medical Bargain
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“I will die now” the forty-plus gentleman said in a semi-threatening way, “I haven’t slept all night yesterday as I was with my brother, I even skipped my lunch today. I must sleep now. I will leave my cell number, if something happens to my brother, they can call me. You are around, right?”
“Yes, the ICU team is looking after your brother round the clock, I am around till late night.” I told him. There was no point in telling him that I hadn’t slept for last three nights either.
On the prior night at about 10.15 PM, after my work hours, as I went to receive my sister on the airport, I had received his panic call, as this gentleman’s brother had developed sudden convulsions. This brother had seen me few months ago, in emergency, when he had developed a stroke. I remembered that they were quite unhappy about the bills then in spite of a good recovery. They had left with sarcastic remarks about the bills. A good memory is essential for every doctor.
I asked them to rush to the casualty, gave him the number for ambulance, and went to park my car at the airport.
“One Hundred Rupees, Sir” said the person on the parking desk.
“But I am parking only for few minutes, I have come to pick someone up” I asked him, surprised that the parking charges. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
“Even for entry the charge is 100 rupees” he told me with a cold smile. I had started getting calls from my sister, she had landed. I paid his hundred, parked the car and went on to receive her. On the way, I called up the casualty and issued instructions about this patient who was to arrive there.
Sis was tired, but happy to see me. I told her that we had to make a stop at the hospital on the way back, there was an emergency.
“When will you become a senior doctor who does not have to attend patients at night?” she asked with a sarcastic smile.
“Never”, I replied, “All Indian doctors die young and working.”
“Shut up, don’t talk rubbish things like that” she said with her feminine instinct. “I desperately need tea, can I get some and drink it on the way?” she asked.
We went to get tea and my coffee.
“Two hundred and fifty Rupees, Sir” said the attendant at the airport tea stall.
“Why?” I asked a stupid question almost knowing his answer, “Even an MBBS doctor charges less than your tea/ coffee”.
“GST” he replied, calmly. As if airport shops were dishing out cheap before GST!
After counting the money and safeguarding it, he gave me two sips each of tea and coffee. We also bought 500 ml drinking water for another 100 rupees, and drove to the hospital. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Leaving Sis in the car, I went to the casualty. The patient arrived in a few minutes, it was nearly 11 PM. He was still unconscious, convulsing and bleeding from his mouth. The casualty team got into efficient action, and in a few minutes the convulsions stopped. Writing his orders and answering many relevant and irrelevant questions asked by his irate brother, explaining him the situation and criticality, I drove Sis home well past midnight.
Three days later, he was discharged, fully recovered. Till then I received innumerable calls day and night because of their complaints ranging from blankets, food and ‘the nurse did not come immediately when I pressed the bell’, to medical management and doses etc. The patient and his brother had spent most of their life in Switzerland (restauranteers). They net-researched a lot and tested my knowledge and patience together, till the time I finally and subtly gave them an option to handover the case to a “Senior” colleague, very good but famous for not answering any questions at all. Then they stopped.
Upon discharge, the patient and the brother brought me the hospital bill. A doctor has the same control on the hospital billing that a common man has on the government, I told them so.
“The hospital bill is okay” he said, “but you have charged a thousand rupees per day. That is too much”.
“What would you charge, Sir, if you were a superspecialist with high qualifications and over 20 years of experience, rushing late night to attend an emergency?” I asked him, “What will you charge if you were to attend a person 24/7 under your care, answerable by law and having a right to sue you for lakhs if you commit simplest of a mistake?” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Three Hundred rupees is the maximum I think a doctor should charge. Our family physician charges us that much since last 5 years” he said without a blink.
“Sorry Mister, we are not bargaining about this. Your family physician is gracious, but even he is charging you far less compared to the western standards of care you expect. What essentials of life have gone cheaper in last 5 years? Even the T shirt you wear is an international brand costing above two thousand rupees. Just because you are in India, you did not buy a three hundred rupees T shirt, or a local brand of car or cellphone. Indian doctors already charge far lower, being aware of the poverty status of multitudes. You must not take advantage of this and claim minimal rates for all medical services. In the western world, a specialist won’t have come for you to the casualty after his work hours, nor would you be able to reach him / her, and every consult would cost you over five times what I have charged you”.
“But Doctors should not think about money” said the patient.
I had decided long ago never to discuss money with patients. This had cost me immeasurable losses, some dupe the doctor / hospital outright, while some think a polite sweet talk is enough fees. Some bring VIPs, some threaten blatantly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Even the insurance companies want every medical service to be available at a concessional rate for everyone!
God has given me enough and I am thankful. I go to work every day with an aim to return God’s favours in whatever small ways I can. However, I don’t understand the rich / affording people who take advantage of what is meant for the poor.
“Indian doctors spend only two minutes with the patient” said a recent headline, adding copious amount of fuels to the anti-doctor sentiments of the society. This is a clear equivalent of the naked pictures such newspapers publish to get attention. They conveniently forget the doctor-patient ratio in the western world, the payments for medical services, availability of specialists, waiting period for appointments, the education and behaviour of patients, non-interference by politicians, working hours and facilities for the doctors, and most importantly the fact that India provides doctors to almost every country upon earth, and gets patients from many developed countries too.
Because they know, people will buy the newspaper only if they print those naked pictures! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Ok, just give us some concession” said the brothers.
“Do you ask concessions in parking lots, in coffee shops, in hotels?” I asked.
Disgruntled, he replied “No, but you are a doctor, you must be compassionate to the patient”.
“Compassionate to the patient or his greed for money and skimpiness?” I wanted to ask, but time was running short, so I wrote a note or the billing to cut off some amount from my consultation fees, and resumed work.
India needs a two-tier medical charging system, with those below poverty line getting all basic medical services free and special services at a basic cost, while all others must pay relevantly.
My businessman friend, who is also an excellent and compassionate human being was laughing at me. “You doctors let people do this to you. There is a difference between being compassionate and letting someone take advantage of you. The later is stupidity. There should be a special window for bargainers of doctor’s charges and medical bills, and the bargaining should begin at the time of admission. That is when the value of saving health and life, and the importance of timing are best felt. Once the patient improves, the value of medical service received becomes zero. If they cannot afford, give them the basic treatment for emergency and let them go to a hospital where they can afford the treatment. There are many choices. To insist on a set of specialists, luxuries and then to refuse to pay is the general tendency, you will always lose in this case”.
Almost every doctor enjoys saving lives, treating thousands to relive their suffering. However, the continuous onslaught of allegations about high fees, legal threats, mudslinging by some politicians and socially prominent influential nitwits, combined with a callous attitude by most media takes away so many proud pleasures from a doctor’s life!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please share unedited.
PS: there are some who continuously fail to grasp the main issue and continue their age-old song about some doctors and hospitals doing too many tests, taking advantage. The simple solution is : don’t visit such doctors or hospitals. Don’t do the tests. Be happy.