Category Archives: healthcare for all

The Fairy And The Prince

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful radiant lady wheeled in the patient’s chair and wished me with a pleasant smile. Some smiles, however beautiful, have a tragic shade. I looked at the patient Rohan. A very well built fair young man in his late twenties, must have been very handsome in the past. He sat paralysed below the shoulders, one eye closed, face twisted, and a large surgical scar upon his head, partially covered by a cap. He could not speak. Any movement would cause violent tremors. He was wheelchair bound and had to be assisted even for toilet.

Rohan and Riya had married just two years ago, against the wish of their parents. Both from very affluent, but uneducated families. Both worked at the same office. In a few months after marriage, Rohan had developed high blood pressure, and was advised treatment. Unfortunately, he got carried away with some false claims about some herbal medicines shown on National Television channels and stopped the BP medicines. The obvious happened: one of the blood vessels in his brain ruptured due to high BP, and there was a huge bleeding. A Neurosurgeon had done an excellent job by taking this high-risk case on operation table in emergency, to suck out the blood clots and save his life. However, the damage was already done by then, much of his brain was damaged on one side. Riya had been caring for him since then. She looked after him just as a mother cares for her newborn.

“Doctor, we know his paralysis will not improve now. But he is brilliant, I know his brain thinks fast and accurate. Since this stroke he cannot speak. We have come with some hope for his speech. If he could just tell me what he feels, if something is bothering him, what he wants, etc., I will be very grateful” his wife said.

We started treatment. In a few days, Rohan could speak legibly, so she was very happy. Rohan’s parents were very happy too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One day, Riya’s father came with her. He asked her to wait outside my room for a few minutes, she reluctantly left. With folded hands and tears, he spoke: “Doctor sahab, my daughter married against our wish. I have forgiven her now. But I cannot see her spending her life like this. She was the most brilliant girl in our town, she had even rejected job offers to go to America because Rohan wanted to stay in India. You can see that she is still young and beautiful. Anyone will marry her; she is one in a million. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter, but you can see for yourself from how she cares for her husband. She has become his attendant now. What is her fault? How can a father see his daughter wasting away her youth like this? They have no family life. I cannot even speak to her about this. Her mother tried but Riya refused to speak. She speaks very highly of you, so I have come with this hope. Please help us”.

This was very difficult, but a duty too. If not me, who could even attempt to resolve this?

“Let us ask her about her thoughts” I told her father and requested him not to react when she spoke. We called her in. I told her in short how her father felt. She sat straight. Her face became distorted and she wept silently. Her father kept on patting her while weeping himself.

“Papa, when Rohan could recently speak after so many months, the first thing he told me was to leave him and marry someone else. He refused to eat his medicines, saying that I should leave him. Then I promised him that I will leave him after two years. That was a lie. I know he will die if I leave. I could feel his love even when he could not speak, that’s something more precious to me than whatever you think I will get if I marry someone else. Till the day he had this bleeding in the brain, he made sure I was best taken care of. He never had his food before me. How can I spend even one happy moment with anyone else knowing that Rohan is suffering in this same world? Would you be proud of me if I did that? Did you teach me to be so selfish?” She broke down. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Her father did not say anything. They left.

In a few weeks, Rohan followed up again with Riya. He is now gradually learning to operate a computer. He plans to start his own online business. Riya is helping him do that, while continuing to work. They are now planning for a child soon.

This fairy I met was more beautiful than any other in the dreamy stories I had heard all through my childhood. I am glad that I am a witness to this divine fairytale.

I know even of another couple, where the girl had developed a paralysis in her college days. I had counselled her and her boyfriend about future uncertainties and a possibility of a compromised married life, given her illness. “That’s not the most important thing for us” he had said. They married. Today, about 8 years since then, they have a healthy, happy kid, and he still cares for her as much, now when she is in a wheelchair. This knight lives in a rented house, runs a small grocery store, rides a bicycle, wears the simplest of clothes, yet has a heart that would put to shame many a real princes!

My world as a doctor is full of beautiful fairies and knights, named caretakers. It is because of them that thousands of patients are surviving with dignity today. Medical care is so incomplete without them! I remember my favourite author Richard Bach’s words from “The Bridge Across Forever”: “Princesses, Knights, Enchantments and Dragons, Mystery and Adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that EVER lived on earth!” How true!! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Among the stories of sadness and suffering, most doctors also come across best of the human hearts and minds, highest forms of love and care. Such patients and relatives reinforce our own trust and faith in the ability of human efforts to heal. Thanks to what I learn from my patients, my gratitude for being a doctor is endless!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all caretakers, young and old, who silently sacrifice much of their life caring for their loved ones.

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Quit Quit

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In the first year of medical school / MBBS, I had a heart break. It made me feel like quitting medicine as I did not feel like going to the same class again. I started bunking classes, spending a lot of time in a small book house which allowed you to read books without having to buy them. Costly coffee shops were not a fashion then. The phase lasted for about three months, till a professor (God bless him!) who knew me informed my parents when I bunked his class. A lot of firing, two tight slaps by mummy dearest, and I was back on track. I had hated that professor for some time and did not talk to my parents for the firing for a few days.

Towards the end of second year I got so engrossed with philosophy, poetry and study of different religious texts from various religions, that I was convinced I wanted to give up medicine and be a philosopher, author. I attended college but my mind was too occupied to concentrate. It was then that I came across a professor who was very brilliant and approachable. He told me to just ‘sail through’ and let the storms in my mind settle. “Teenagers like you must learn to tame the fires within” he said it wisely. I carried on.

Motivation to me is a myth. Some have it within themselves, some don’t. One who needs motivation keeps needing it all the time. I will do something else better maybe, but then I will have quit medicine. Over a period of time I learnt that no one succeeds by being half hearted. I don’t want to leave an unfinished task behind me. I didn’t want to be a quitter.

Then onwards I did fairly well and secured my MD seat. But a crueller test was written for my future.

I joined DM Neurology course in Mumbai. In a few days I had a terrible non-academic argument with one of the professors and was told to get out. Hurt, I left Mumbai and came to Pune. My sister had a rented flat, I stayed with her and mostly roamed alone, usually sitting and musing in a local garden Sambhaji Park. Grew a beard and a belly. I was ashamed to go back to my parents because I did not want to face them with an “I Can’t”.

A few days later, my father called. “Start the next thing today. Quit or don’t quit, but don’t waste time. Any decision in life should not take more than a few seconds to make. You only have to listen to your heart. Take a step, if wrong, correct it. Don’t hover”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I had desperately wanted to be a Neurology DM. That’s what my heart resounded. I joined back the next day. Since then, I have always made this rule for myself: never to prolong any decision making about my own life. It does not take more than a few peaceful seconds to listen to your heart and act upon it. The moment you allow others to choose for you, you create a mess. There are sometimes great sacrifices involved, one must give up a lot to pursue the path of the heart. But it is the most rewarding path to pursue. There’s nothing money can buy for an unhappy heart, so the choice of money over what your heart truly craves is always a mistake. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

There were times when I was angry and upset with parents, teachers, others who meant well and told me I was wrong. Looking back at what life has given me, I regret that. They too did not know the future like me, but they had deep faith in what I could achieve. Their anger, advice and reprimands came with the purest intentions of making my life the best it can be. Today when I have achieved more than what I set out to, I crave for one opportunity to meet each one of them and express my heartfelt gratitude towards them.

Medicine is gruelling. It is not for the weak hearted. Study for decades amongst a culture of corruption, socio-politically motivated decisions, unfair competitions, pathetic living conditions, and then face the tears, sickness, frustrations, accusations, deaths and ungrateful wrath of multitudes for all your life. But it is also the only profession which allows one human to literally take away pain, suffering and death from another. It is the only vocation that brings one closest to the highest form of human achievement: saving lives, easing pain, curing diseases. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Many medical students as well as doctors at different stages in their career feel like quitting. I just want to remind them: one saved life, one smiling patient defeats all other negatives about this profession. You are the ONLY ONE who can make this possible. Others may or may not recognise this, it is for yourself. This is the best gift you can give yourself: the ability to save life.

It is the tendency to hover upon indecision, confusion and delay that one must quit. Quit the choice to quit. Life’s too beautiful to waste time when your heart always knows where to go.

In the memory of my father Dr. Kalidas Deshpande, on his birth anniversary (Ganesh Chaturthi).

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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A big salute to this extraordinary benchmark of values in medical profession.

On 4th August due to rain havoc and release of dam waters there was unprecedented flooding in some areas of Pune. Unfortunately this flooded the new Jupiter hospital in Baner, jeopardising the lives of a hundred patients including critical, and even a tribal baby who had had a heart transplant. Within minutes the hospital authorities reacted with an efficiency comparable only to a military task force. The staff, doctors and nurses worked in coordination to shift every patient to other hospitals in Pune, other hospitals too graciously accommodated them on an emergency basis.

It is extraordinary that Jupiter Hospital not only arranged for a safe transfer of every patient, they sent doctors and nurses with each patient to help them settle in another hospital.

Every bill for every shifted patient till their discharge from other hospitals was paid by Jupiter hospital, not a single rupee had to be paid by the patient. The entire staff and doctors stood by this effort, some offered their salaries of next six months to help this task. The administration very politely declined to accept this, and continued to care for each of their doctors and staff even when the hospital had to be shut down for nearly a week.

As the hospital reopens completely recovered from the damage caused by the calamity, I salute this extraordinary phenomenon which should be hailed by every person with their heart in the right place.

Congratulations Dr. Ajay and Dr. Ankit Thakkar for setting this fabulous example of humanity.

God, Doctor and The Killer Snake.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dattaram started breathing fast and coughing. Red skin, rashes. Pulse 140. BP not recordable. This unfortunate young labourer, bitten by a cobra only a few hours ago, had now developed severe dangerous reaction or ‘anaphylaxis’ to the only medicine that could have saved him: the injection of anti snake venom. I stopped the intravenous drip immediately and shouted at the sister to bring the crash cart. We injected him with the most powerful drug Adrenaline which we had kept ready in a syringe.

He was brought by a friend to the hospital just after 10 PM. His villager friend who had brought him directly from the farm had gone back to bring Dattaram’s family. They were not expected for a few more hours. So the patient was all ‘care-of’ me, then a junior intern at the government medical college hospital. That was the era before cellphones and ventilators in government hospitals. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Some venomous snake bites cause death by paralysing the breathing muscles, while others kill by clotting the blood inside the arteries. Dattaram was bitten by a paralysing snake, and his eyelids had already started drooping, he was also having difficulty in swallowing and coughing. Other medicines were started to counter the paralysis, but the killer venom was spreading. Time was running out. I started having palpitations. I was to be the active witness to his destiny. The ward was already full, the second intern was busy too.

The only way out was to give him extremely small doses of the antivenom again, gradually increasing the dose every few minutes, till a full concentration dose could be given. This is called desensitisation. I had never done it earlier. If he reacted again to any such smaller dose, there was nothing else to do. This was dangerous, and required a written consent by patient’s relatives. There was none. His pulse was now 120, and his BP was now recordable. I kept reassuring him. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I called up my professor through the ward landline and informed him in short.

“Go ahead, be careful. I will take care of the stupid consent from the medical director. Call me if required” he said.

I went to Dattaram. “Listen, Dattaram, I need to use a medicine against the snake venom. Some patients may may have reaction to that medicine. I will try and do this very carefully, but sometimes it may cause problems. Is it Okay?”

In a hoarse voice, he said with great difficulty: “You are my God. Do whatever you can. Keep me alive atleast till I meet my wife and daughter”. I told him I will.

I started to inject him the antisnake venom doses. First extremely diluted, then in gradually increasing concentration. His blood pressure was stable. However, after a few minutes, his breathing became shallow. He became drowsy. His respiration was paralysed. The snake venom was winning the race. I put in a breathing tube. The nurse started pumping air in his lungs through a rubber bag. I was sweating, thinking, panicking, observing and praying all at the same time. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He was tolerating the antivenom well. After a few hours, I decided to give him the final big dose again. I restarted the same medicine that had almost killed him a few hours ago.

His wife and daughter arrived. I quickly explained them what had happened, as the lady kept on patting her unconscious husband’s head. The daughter, barely 12 years old, was crying muffled. There’s a state of numbing that comes after extreme shock: that is terrifying to witness. Big city and poverty on one side, hopelessness of the situation on the other. The lady suddenly got up, took out a few ten-rupee notes and extending them to me, touched my feet “I will sell everything we have, please save my kumkum (husband). Look at the face of my daughter. Where will we go without him? You are God for us” she said repeatedly.

I did not crave to be a God, I just wanted to be a good doctor. Shall I be angry that she was trying to bribe me? Never. I remembered what my grandpa had said on the day that I joined medical college: “If you want to be a good doctor, try to imagine yourself in the place of your patient”. I suddenly realised that even though I was not God, in the eyes of this lady, her husband and the daughter, I was their only hope. I have always hated wordplay, I am rather a feelings man. I understood what they meant. The life of every patient depends upon my best effort and nothing less. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Tai, I will try my best. Don’t worry. Keep that money with you. You don’t have to sell anything; we have all the medicines. You can both have tea if you want, this sister will get you some. Let me please attend your husband now.” I requested.

A few hours after that, by morning, Dattaram opened eyes. He met his wife and daughter. By noon, he started to breathe by himself, so we removed the tube. By the time my professor took rounds, Dattaram appeared stable. Medical professors never openly praise students. My professor kept his hand upon my shoulder, smiling. “Too bad, this did not happen on a cricket ground or a film theater, otherwise you would be rewarded with cars and bungalows.” he said with his characteristic red-chilly-smeared wisdom.

When Dattaram was discharged, his wife got me some sweets, and invited me to their village. “Doctor, we are very poor, but I will cook for you the best meal you will ever eat” she said.

Most doctors make a genuine best effort to save the patient: who would want otherwise? Yet sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. In this case my effort was blessed. I will perpetually be grateful to my own God, praying that he rewards the effort of every doctor trying to save a patient.

As for the cars and bungalows, who has enough time to use them when lives are to be saved?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Soulmates, Military Grade!

Group Captain Y. S. Marwa and his wife Mrs. Gurkirat Kaur have bravely stood with each other through thick and thin. They are both above 85. They care for each other extremely delicately. Many couples do, but the noticeable difference here is the willingness, involvement and sense of duty with which they both do it. While he is the picture perfect gentleman, she compliments his personality beautifully too.

Just a few weeks ago, Gp. Capt. Marwa unfortunately had a severe heart attack. Even in the ICU, his mind was preoccupied with only one thought: “I must get better fast to take care of her”. Thanks to the efforts of doctors at the military hospital in Pune and his own willpower, he recovered completely and joined back his chosen duty.

“We had taken a vow when we got married, I am just keeping my word” he says with a handsome smile. A military man to the core, he walks straight in the face of every adversity and defeats it with his monumental determination. In a world that is stuck in superficial, glittery meanings of ‘Love’, this couple personifies the very essence of the word ‘Soulmates’.

They don’t forget to bless me every time we meet, and my day turns sunny whenever they visit. I wish them both a many grand decades of love and togetherness, health and happiness.

Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Yes: The Most Powerful Word.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mohanad, child of a small time mechanic in Yemen, developed a devastating condition called “Transverse Myelitis” which causes sudden damage to the main connecting cable from brain to the rest of the body, called “Spinal Cord”. He not only lost all sensation, but was completely paralysed below the waist, his control over passing urine was also lost. That was seven months ago. He was told that his remaining life will be in a wheelchair. He wasn’t convinced.

His mechanic father and farmer brother decided to get help and travelled with him to India for his treatment. When he came, he could not feel anything below waist and had no movement at all.

One beautiful thing about being a child is that you don’t have inhibitions, fears or anxieties like adults. One can learn from children how to be optimistic beyond par. They have more “Yes” in their minds.

When I met him for the first time, I thought the child was a little upset with his own situation. To boost his morale I told him I was going to make every effort to make him walk again, but I needed his help.

He smiled.. “Yes, I want to walk. I will walk. I will run” he said.

He worked hard. Took medicine without complaining. Never cried. Did all that was planned for him.

Today after three months, he has started to gradually improve. Most of his recovery is natural, with some supplements and nerve strengthening medicines, and physiotherapy. He came in with a cute big smile to report this improvement today. He will travel back to his country next week. He knows there’s a long long way to go before realising his dreams, but that’s the beauty of dreams: when they come true, they make you proud of yourself that you overcame all that stood between you and your dreams.

Mohanad deserves a big applause for his grit and courage. I pray that he always smiles this beautiful smile all his life! I have become a fan of his “Yes I can!”.

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The Euthanasia Named NMC

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Sweet Poison, Gorgeous Vamp, Philanthropist Criminal or NMC. All of these have one thing in common: the taste, the appearance is deceptive.

Just a while ago, doctors had complete autonomy and freedom to elect the best to the medical councils. They failed. Doctors had chances to unite and rectify glaring obvious malpractices in their own profession. They failed. Doctors had a freedom to pressurise elected medical council members to enforce ethics and discipline in Indian medicine, to arrest corruption. They failed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

The parliamentary standing committee said something like “MCI looked only after doctor’s interests, not that of public, it is necessary to reduce the monopoly of doctors, so there should be diverse stakeholders at the helm”. The fact was that MCI looked only after its own interests, not even those of the real doctors of India: the thousands who were shouldering the actual healthcare burden especially in govt hospitals and rural areas, underpaid and unprotected. Malpractices became rampant. The general social jealousy about doctors which was earlier suppressed by respect converted into open anger and fuelled a paranoia that did not spare the best of the medical practitioners. For the sins of few, majority suffered. Patients too suffered at all levels. Govt medical services were always pathetic (and will remain so even after NMC), and there was no reign over the corporates who dominated and dictated the scene. Competition and petty egos destroyed any chances of any good unity among doctors. There could not be a deeper nadir for the profession. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

That fathered the NMC. Doctors will need to unite now like never before if they want to change this “Law”. Laws can be changed. But is it necessary in this case? Decide for yourself.

1. The ultimate, complete control of this “Autonomous” NMC is is in the hands of the central government. Majority members are govt. officials, a minority are to be chosen by medical professionals, and in every case, all that the central govt. decides is going to be a binding upon the NMC. That is like cutting off the wings of a bird and naming it “Independent and Free”. NMC, its advisory committee search committee or its four component boards will all be dominated by govt.’s chairs. Central Govt will also decide about the funding and salaries of the NMC members and its Chairman. We all know who sits in the top chairs of govt. institutes and how many among them can speak against the govt. So tomorrow if the govt wants to make ANY decision about ANYTHING that governs Indian Doctors, it can. Who will stop them if wrong? Such is the control of Central Govt. over this NMC, that if a doctor is unhappy about some decision of state medical council, he can go to NMC, and if unhappy about NMC’s decision, he will have to appeal to….? Courts of law? No. Something higher: the central govt!! So every medical practitioner’s career is ultimately in the hands of the central govt. Better join the party. Or quit medicine.

2. The entrance examinations are more simplified. All undergraduate examinations will be through NEET. All who have completed undergraduate course (MBBS curriculum) will appear for the Final MBBS exam which will also be common National exam (NEXT) for Medical Licence and PG admissions. Due to legal status of institutes like AIIMS, PGI, etc., they will conduct a separate PG entrance exam. Although this appears simplified, given the history of corruption (at almost all levels) in such exams and delays that waste millions of youth-years, one is worried about an undercurrent ‘sale’ of PG seats. But wait, not everyone must pass the licensing exam. You can entirely skip the difficult MBBS course, do something else, and bridge over in 6 months, without having to pass the licensing exams. That’s the third bullet.

3. Some AYUSH doctors are better than some MBBS doctors. Many who can not get into MBBS in spite of merit opt for other streams, with a hope to become a good doctor. They are actually contributing a lot to our healthcare, many of them know their limitations. One cannot object to their wish to practice allopathy if they want to study and upgrade themselves, the only objection is to exempt them from the common licensing exams. That will be very unfair to our society, most of whom will never know whether the doctor treating them has adequate experience, qualification and wisdom.

A newly passed out lawyer cannot do a “Six Month Bridge Course” to become a High Court Judge. A new recruit in Police cannot become an Inspector though a “Six Month Bridge Course”. A Municipal Councillor / Nagarsewak cannot “Bridge Course” himself into a Health Minister or Prime Minister. One needs to qualify though a common mandatory process. After MBBS, one cannot do a “bridge course” to become an MD that requires three years of intense responsibility handling, studying, treating patients under supervision and obtaining a deep insight into that subject. It is not possible in six months even for an allopath. Likewise, if an AYUSH doctor must practice allopathy, they must go through the necessary training (two to three years) and more importantly qualify the same common licensing exam before they practice the complicated allopathy.

AYUSH is an excellent idea, but it is immature as of now.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

4. The Doctor:Patient ratio in India is misquoted. Due to poor payments and infrastructures, very few doctors stay either in rural areas or govt. services, and the whole equation is skewed. The very purpose of AYUSH was to bring in more medical personnel, but that would work if these (3.5 lacs) “bridge” course doctors honoured the opportunity and worked only where there was a scarcity of doctors (urban and rural). What is more likely is that these additional doctors will also join the existing urban trend. Who can blame them for wanting a better life?

5. The newer policies of “more data, more paperwork, more record keeping, tighter control” over doctors will only result in private practitioners becoming more paranoid, giving up all the voluntary charity that they did every day, spending more time per case: and that will reduce numbers and spike fees. I can foresee most private practitioners closing down clinics. More rules and paperwork mean more corruption and exploitation in our country. This will turn into higher cost per consultation. Private healthcare will be out of reach for the poor. The good doctor will no more sit in his own clinic, he will turn to a safer corporate hospital. (Is that the aim?).

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

6. The NMC bill entirely skips any word about regulating the large private healthcare sector. It does not have any provisions to protect new and good doctors from the tyranny and forces of corporate expectations. Some private hospitals have excellent policies and ethics, some corporates are very doctor and patient-friendly, but many remain to be corrected. There is no authority to the NMC over such hospitals.

7. There is no mention about improving staff and facilities at govt. hospitals, about any rules that ensure the best free healthcare for millions of poor patients in India. The ground reality that many patients suffer and die due to lack of staff, medicines, technology, tests and surgeries at government hospitals finds no mention in the reports of the Parliamentary committees that suggested the NMC. They did not mention the pathetic, unsafe and inhuman conditions in which Indian medical students and resident doctors live and work. They did not mention who will be responsible if a patient dies in a govt hospital due to lack of facilities or medicines. They appear to be more concerned about the price control of 40 percent seats in private medical colleges.

It is sad that in spite of many doctors in and around the central government, the medical field’s autonomy died with this bill. Shall we call it Euthanasia or “Physician assisted death” of the autonomy of medical profession? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. In the era of the MCI, doctors were orphans, now in the era of NMC, they have become slaves.

The corrections in this bill will have to be put forth and pursued by a totally unified doctor’s organisation. “Painkiller Agitations” will not work. We must ask for complete release of the NMC from the cages of central government. Like in the UK, Indian NMC should be made up of 50% Senior Doctors representing all states and specialties, and the remaining 50% can be selected by the patient organisations: Judges, Media Stalwarts, Journalists, Artists, Ministers and Eminent Social Personalities. We must ask for transparency and fool-proofing of all medical entrance exams. We must ask for the right education, experience and licensing of AYUSH doctors, and welcome them once they qualify.

This article is written with my heart which bleeds for my profession and my patient alike. Bharat Maata Ki Jay!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Thank you Dr. Avinash Deshpande, Aurangabad, for some valuable inputs. If there are any technical mistakes, please let me know so I can correct.

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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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