Tag Archives: Compassion

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A hungry poor man named Atmaram went to a big hotel, had a nice big meal, and told he had no money to pay. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. He was released after a warning and a slap.

Next day he filled up petrol in his bike, and said he couldn’t pay. He was again beaten up, handed over to the police. Then he went to the medical shop, bought medicines and mineral water, ate the medicine, drank water from the bottle, and again said he couldn’t pay. He was now jailed for a week.

Next week his house was damaged by heavy rains, so he went and requested to be allowed to sleep in the house of the chief minister. He was arrested again, thrashed up.

As angry Atmaram shouted at the police, he was beaten up by them, another crime was added to his offences. In the court, Atmaram insulted the lawyers and judges and accused them of accepting bribes and charging too much. The judge punished him extra for his behaviour. Atmaram was angry and threw his shoe at the judge. His punishment was extended.

“You must respect the authority “ the court said.

“But I am poor, I need free food and petrol and medicines. I need sympathy too” Atmaram argued.

“You should have begged and applied for favours and eaten in places that provide charity meals. Petrol, however essential, has the same price for everyone. You can sleep on the footpath, and above all, you are not allowed rudeness and violence because you are poor and needy” The court said.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When released from the jail, Atmaram drank a lot of desi alcohol, had an accident and fractured many bones. He went to the best private hospital, got operated and refused to pay his bills that crossed one lac rupees. When the hospital insisted, the operating doctors were beaten up by Atmaran’s relatives, the hospital was vandalised, the police arrested the doctor who saved Atmaram’s life, the government closed down the hospital, while the media and the society kept villainising the entire medical profession.

The headlines next day reported the sympathy expressed uniformly by wag addicted tongues: some said the entire profession was tainted, some blamed the greed of the doctors, even some doctors desperate for attention shed crocodile tears about the ethics in this profession. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In the courtroom, during the trial, Atmaram sat facing the doctor, still heavily bandaged.

The hon’ble judge, kind but surrounded by security, told the doctor accused of negligence and malpractice in the court: “You as a doctor carry more responsibility for ethical behaviour upon your shoulders. You should never turn away the poor”.

The doctor, defending himself, asked “but Milord, doesn’t our constitution insist on equality? Why do you yourself or ministers get security but not the doctor? Why isn’t everyone supposed to stick to ethics in every profession including politics, police and judiciary? Why are others exempt? How do you explain beating up of doctors while also saying that the society treated them like gods?”.

There were no answers. The kind court asked if the doctor had to say anything else in his own defence.

The doctor said

“Yes Milord, but the real answers will hurt:

Jealousy against medical professionals across society and many other professions is a reality. Why else will anyone who couldn’t qualify to become a doctor try and teach the qualified doctors what they should do?”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“A culture of exploitation of non-votebank groups

and a complete failure of government healthcare with no one accepting responsibility is well known to everyone, but even judges have no courage to suo motu question this and correct it, even when they see the poor dying”. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“In a country with never ending poverty, how much free can a healthcare facility provide? For how long? This is already forcing closure of hospitals and exodus of good doctors out of the country.”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Milord, can you assure that every doctor will get his/ her fees as per his service to every patient, and if the patient can’t pay, that much charge will be exempted from the income tax of that doctor? How else do you except a doctor to meet his needs and dreams? Just because there are millions of poor patients, is the doctor’s life and hard work taken for granted? If there has to be financial sacrifice, why not have everyone contribute to it by creating a national health tax fund for treatment of poor patients? Why healthcare is subsidised only at the cost of a doctor?”

Just at this point, Atmaram, who sat in front of the judge, collapsed unconscious, almost blue black.

The shocked judge requested the doctor to examine him.

“He is no more” said the doctor.

“What could have happened ?” asked the kind but sweating judge.

The doctor told the court about three possible reasons. Two of them were scientific and medical: a sudden cardiac event or a large blood clot in the lungs common after fractures and trauma.

The third non-medical, unscientific cause made the Judge seriously ponder.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Will this court be now closed down, Milord? Will your efficiency be questioned, will you allow the relatives to attack you and understand their sad situation at the cost of your murder?”

“I understand what you mean” said the kind judge.

Needless to say, the doctor was released without a blame.

Can anyone please solve the mystery of the third non medical, unscientific possible cause of Atmaram’s death?

(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Colour Of Blessings

The Colour Of Blessings

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Carefully calculating the dose and mixing it with the intravenous fluid with precision, I told the kind old lady: “I am starting the medicine drip now. If you feel anything unpleasant, please tell me.”

Through her pain, she smiled in reply. Her son, my lecturer Dr. SK, stood beside us and reassured her too. He had to leave for the OPD, there already was a rush today. “Please take care of her and call me if you feel anything is wrong” he said and left.

Dr. SK’s mom was advised chemotherapy of a cancer. It was quite difficult to calculate its doses and prepare the right concentration for the intravenous drip. Just a month ago, my guide Dr. Pradeep (PY) Muley had taught me how to accurately prepare and administer it, so when Dr. SK’s mom was admitted, he requested me to do it for her too.

The drip started. After a few hours, I noticed that her urine bag needed emptying. The ‘mausi’ supposed to do it was already out for some work. Any resident doctor in India naturally replaces whoever is absent. So I wore gloves, requested a bucket from the nurse, and emptied the urobag into it. Just as I carried the bucket with urine towards the ward bathrooms, Dr. SK returned, and offered to carry it himself, but I told him it was okay and went on to keep the bucket near the bathroom where the ‘mausi’ would later clean it. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Once the drip was over, Dr. SK invited me for a tea at a small stall outside the campus. He appeared disturbed. He said awkwardly: “Listen, please don’t misunderstand, but when I saw you carrying my mother’s urine in the bucket, I was amazed. You are a Brahmin, right? When you were away, my mom even scolded me why I allowed you to do it, she felt it was embarrassing, as we hail from the Bahujan community. I am myself a leader of our association, as you already know”.

I knew it, to be honest. His was a feared name in most circles.He was a kindly but aggressive leader of their community, but always ready to help anyone from any caste or religion, to stand by anyone oppressed, especially from the poor and discriminated backgrounds.

“I didn’t think of it Sir! She is a patient, besides that she’s your mother, and I am your student, it is my duty to do whatever is necessary. Otherwise too, my parents have always insisted that I never entertain any such differences”. I replied. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

“That’s okay, but I admit my prejudice about you has changed,” he said. “If you ever face any trouble, consider me your elder brother and let me know if I can do anything for you”. What an honest, courageous admission! Unless every Indian who thinks he / she is superior or different than any other Indian actually faces the hateful racist in the West who ill-treats them both as “browns or blacks”, they will never understand the pain of discrimination!

As fate would have it, in a few months, I had an argument with a professor about some posting. The professor then called me and said “So long as I am an examiner, don’t expect to pass your MD exams.”

I was quite worried. My parents were waiting for me to finish PG and finally start life near them, I already had a few months old son, and our financial status wasn’t robust. I could not afford to waste six months. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I went to Dr. SK. He asked all details. Then he came with me to the threatening professor. He first asked me to apologise to the professor for having argued, which I did. Then he told the professor: “Rajas is my younger brother. Please don’t threaten him ever. Pass him if he deserves, fail him if he performs poor. But don’t fail him if he performs well. I will ask other examiners”.

The professor then told me that he had threatened me “in a fit of rage”, and it was all over.

With the grace of God, good teachers and hard work, I did pass my MD in first attempt. When I went to touch his feet, Dr. SK took me to his mom, who showered her loving blessings upon me once again, and gifted me a Hundred rupee note from her secret pouch. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Like most other students, I’ve had friends from all social folds at all times in school and colleges. I had excellent relations with the leaders of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Association, and twice in my life they have jumped in to help me in my fight against injustice when everyone else had refused. I love the most fierce weapon of all that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself carried: the fountain pen!

No amount of fights will ever resolve any problems between any two communities, the only way forward is to respectfully walk together and find solutions. Fortunately, no doctor, even in India, thinks about any patient in the terms of their religion or caste. (© Dr Rajas Deshpande). Just like the Judge in the court premises, humanity is the single supreme authority in any medical premises. Blood or heart, brain or breathing are not exclusive to any religion or community. Just like the bigger brain, a bigger heart is also the sign of evolution.

I so much wish that the black clouds of disharmony between different communities are forever gone. The only hope is that our students can open any doors and break any walls, so long as they do not grow up into egoistic stiffs. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I am proud to belong to the medical cult of those who never entertain any discrimination. A patient’s blessing has no coloured flags attached! Even outside my profession, I deeply believe that the very God I pray exists in every single human being I meet. If at all anyone asks me, I am happy to say that:

My religion, my caste and my duty as a doctor are all one: Humanity first!

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune

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The Remedy of Trust

The Remedy of Trust
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
I entered the ICU in a torn and angry frame of mind. An old patient had had fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure all night, and was on the thin line between life and death. Irregular heart beats had clotted his blood and he had developed a paralysis.
 
I had had a terrible argument with family that morning, and had left home without a breakfast, thinking that I will catch up in the canteen if hungry. The traffic on the way was as usual bad, it further worsened my mood. Messages kept pouring in: pending bills and health enquiries that were an attempt to avoid a proper consultation. One can ignore, but sometimes ignoring is stressful too!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
As I entered the hospital, I was told about some machine not working. The technician had commented that it was beyond repair now. New one would cost over 30 lacs minimum, and this machine was required on a daily basis. My head started pounding. Another loan now, another recovery period!
As I passed the billing counter, an imposing rogue with a group stopped me. “Sir, the bill is too high, do something”. It was an open threat worded technically as a request. The relatives who folded hands to save the patient till yesterday were standing behind that rogue, looking unconcerned, not even happy that the patient was alive and being discharged after a life threatening illness. I sent them to the charity cell.
I entered the ICU, staring into my cellphone where angry messages of argument kept pouring in, a dear friend was upset that I was not available to see his relatives in another hospital immediately. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
The old patient was sleeping. A glance at the monitor revealed that the patient’s BP was now stable. His heart rate was regular too. What a relief!
The patient’s wife got up, she was in her 80s. Fair, all white hair, and the confidence of culture upon her face, she smiled through her wrinkles and troubles. The Kumkum on her forehead was bright and fresh. She wore a torn saree, and had no ornaments except a thin thread with black beads that made her Mangalsutra. She was bending forward due to age.
She then said “He spoke to me this morning. He is feeling better than yesterday. I know he is old, but please give him the best treatment. We have been together since childhood.” Her eyes became wet.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Then she made an attempt to touch my feet, something that woke me up with a shock. A tingling feeling ran through my body. I held her hand and asked her it was ok, and returned the gesture by touching her feet too. I told her I will try my best, and her husband appeared out of danger at that moment.
She gently prodded the patient: “Look, our doctor is here. He says you are getting better. Do you recognize our doctor? Say Namaskar to him”.
 
Confused for a moment, the old man stared first at his wife, then at me.
 
He then tried to lift both hands, but only one went up, which he raised to his forehead and whispered “Namaskar”.
 
The old couple, the age of my parents, was saying Namaskar to me and touching me feet, many decades younger to them, because I was a Doctor. They never knew me until two days ago, but had trusted everything I said. They did not question my ability or intention. I like to be professional, but that should never compromise my manners.
I switched off my cellphone.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
I suddenly felt ashamed of the mood that I was in. They did not deserve it. Their complete faith was to me the best return and reward of my efforts of so many years to become a good doctor. No amount of money ‘thrown at me’ by those who think of ‘buying me services’ would actually be my interest or aim. This was.
 
I smiled at the old lady, and told her that should she have any concerns, she can ask the staff to call me anytime, I would be glad to come over. Then, to repay her for bringing my smile back, I wrote on the billing sheet: “No charges for me in the case”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
When I walked out of the ICU, I was feeling proud and smiling. The faith of this patient and his wife had cured me of my bad mood too. I was prepared again to forget my personal woes, to take over the faithless hundreds, still do them good, in an attempt to reach out to the really deserving faithful, who knew their doctor would only do them good. That is the essence of my profession, my education, and my intention.
 
A patient who trusts a doctor earns for himself the best in that doctor. Always. Although we do not expect it to be understood by everyone.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
 

The Mysterious Blessing

The Mysterious Blessing
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Years ago, one aged Sadhu / saint with long white beard came to the casualty at around 3 AM for an injury caused by a four wheeler. He was walking by the roadside, when someone’s uncontrolled jeep had hit his hand and sped away. He had a big bleeding cut in his arm and forearm. The lone young disciple accompanying the Sadhu was crying, but calm. The sadhu was smiling.

The medical officer on duty was too tired to wake up, and lost his patience. “Why don’t you take rest at night, Babaji?” he shouted at the Sadhu, and then told me, an intern then, to clean and dress the wound. The disciple carefully took away the Sadhu’s belongings: a cotton sling-bag, begging bowl, a Damru (two-headed hand drum), and a flute. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As I cleaned the wound and stitched it after using some anaesthetic, the Sadhu’s smile did not change. I knew he had severe pain.
“Isn’t that painful?” I asked.
“Very painful, but now I feel better” he replied “God bless you”.
“We need to file a medico-legal case. Did you see the vehicle number?” I asked him.
“I have no complaints about anything. Neither the one who hit me, nor I run this world. The one who does will take care” the Sadhu said without any bitterness, and kept his hand on his disciple’s shoulder. “I am all right” he reassured the sobbing disciple. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The casualty ward boy brought my tea just then, and I requested him to get tea and some water for those two too. There was no one else waiting. Nights make us all better human beings for sure.

As they started to leave, I touched their feet. It was just an etiquette, out of respect for age and renunciation. I was just starting out as a doctor, and I was amazed at his pain tolerance and patience. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What do you want? What shall I pray?” he smiled as he raised his wounded hand to bless me.
Never be ashamed to be honest, I knew. “I am waiting for my MD, a postgraduate seat. Please bless me for that”

I felt the irony of what was going on. But sometimes when life’s problems are beyond thinking’s domain to resolve, you don’t think: you just flow. Those times often become the most iconic memories of your life.

He kept his hand upon my head and said “My son, you already have what you want. Stop searching”.

Then, something out of the world happened.
As I got up, that Sadhu touched my feet. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Red with embarrassment and bewildered, I was too dumbstruck to speak.

“This is for the work you do” he said, and took out something from his bag. Placing it in my hand, he said “You treated me with the same love as you’d treat your own. There’s nothing more than that to learn in this world. May your life be blessed with the same love”.

As I stared at the big Rudraksha in my hand, they walked away into the dawn.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: This is a real story. I am rather spiritual than religious, do not believe in most superstitions, but I do not also consider myself enough knowledgeable to take for granted that what I know now or for that matter what science knows today is final. As a doctor, there is no other choice than to think only scientific. But to choose only to be a doctor is optional.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A Policeman’s Tears

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She was found unconscious and naked lying on the road. The baby was near her, moving when we found her, now she also looks unconscious” said the police constable. “Actually I had my civil dress in my jeep, I covered both with my clothes and got them here. Most likely an orphan roadside beggar”.

It was early morning, I had gone to the casualty for a call as a medicine resident, and was chatting with the CMO when this police constable had rushed in the mother and the baby, probably less than a year old. He and his colleague completed the formalities and left. The CMO was alone, so I stayed on to assist.

The lady had high grade fever and some bruises all over her body, only one on the thigh deep enough that it bled. She also had a contusion upon the head. Needless to say, unclean and unkempt, visibly quite weak and poorly fed body. There was a traditional tattoo on her forearm that said “Seeta” in distorted devnagari script. The baby was dehydrated and had fever too, with only minor contusions.

“Sending her to female ward, and the baby to paediatric” said the CMO. We completed the police information and Medicolegal form, the nurses had started the IV line for the lady. I accompanied the baby to the pediatric ward, handed her over to the resident doctor friend on duty and went to the female ward to attend the other admissions. Basic medicines for fever and head injury were started for Seeta. There was no CT scan facility in the hospital. Blood tests were sent.

In absence of relatives, it’s the interns, resident doctors and nurses who attend to the necessities of such patients. Administration mocks everyone sympathetic and compassionate to such patients, be it a government, private or corporate set up. My professor advised some more blood tests. Some tests were not available in the govt. hospital, we had to send them outside. As we had just received the stipend, money was not a big problem.

Next evening I went to the pediatric ward to find out what was happening with the baby.
“She has had convulsions”, the resident colleague told me. We have loaded her with anticonvulsants, but she still has fever. Dr. Jain madam (new lecturer in paediatrics) has advised lumbar puncture, but there’s the consent problem”.
I went to talk to the lecturer, she was all insulting. “Don’t teach me what to do. We will send a request to the dean, and if he allows, then the resident will do the lumbar puncture” she said, “By the way, what’s your interest in this baby? Why don’t you mind your own business? I have heard about you.. you are in the student’s union na? Don’t throw your weight around me.” She said.

The dean consented to our request, and a lumbar puncture was done. The baby had probable tuberculous meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain and its coverings). Antituberculous medicines were started.

The comments of the pediatric lecturer made me extremely angry. Most of her resident doctors hated her attitude too. Those remarks soon spread and various sick, exaggerated and vulgar jokes about me caring for that orphan baby made rounds among my colleagues. But one good thing about wanting to do good is the shameless pride and courage that comes ingrained with it.

My colleague Dr. Madhu stood by me. She often reminded me: “There are five percent good people in the world, and 95 percent bad, Einstein has said, but it is the five percent good who take the world forward, they represent human race”. That has always pumped me up against all the mockery that I ever faced for being “too sensitive and compassionate to be sane”.

The best support for the poor and helpless always comes from the poor and helpless. The pompous, actionless “blah blah” of advising others to be more kind and compassionate is usually the trademark of those who themselves rarely help anyone. The mamas and mausis (wardboys and helpers) of the ward came together to attend Seeta during their duty.

The pediatric resident told us on the third day that the baby’s health had gone bad, and she was unlikely to survive. Dr. Madhu stopped smiling. “At least can we shift the baby near her mom?” we discussed. It was of course not possible.

Dr. Oak (real name), one of our ophthalmology genius professors, learnt about this. He came over and told us in his royal tones, to tap him anytime for any help. He also left some money with us.

On the fourth day, the lady started having convulsions too. We ran around, trying to arrange whatever the professor suggested. She was gradually sinking. Tuberculosis neglected and untreated is one of the most cruel diseases. It takes over ten days for the action of Tb medicines to kick in.

On the fifth day, the baby passed away in the morning, and the lady shortly after. That coincidence was less tragic than their trolleys being rolled into the mortuary together.

“What happens now?” we asked the mortuary in charge.
“They will be cremated as orphan, unclaimed bodies after the post mortem” he told.

In a world of billions, ruled by religious, powerful and rich, a young mother and a baby girl would be cremated as orphans! We told the mortuary assistant to please keep us posted, and came out. Of course we could not sleep.

Next day we took special permission and went to attend their cremation.
On the way, we bought some flowers, a tiny dress for the girl and a saree for her mom, probably the first new clothes ever for either of them. Dr. Madhu had already brought a few bangles, a necklace and two bindis with her.

Dr. Madhu was sobbing as we returned. The rowdy looking policeman with us also wiped his eyes. He dropped us back to the medical college in his jeep.

He said in a heavy voice as we parted:
“Doctor, we see all the worst things in the society. We meet criminals day and night. But when such young girls and babies die, I feel like shooting everyone who didn’t come out to help them. People just talk, nobody helps. God bless you. You have what it takes to be a doctor. Don’t ever change.”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

P.S.
Years later, I read about a divine human being from Chennai, one Mr. S Sreedhar, who collects unclaimed dead bodies from various hospitals, and performs decent and respectful last rites for them. Planning to meet and touch his feet one day.
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Negligence cases deserving severe punishment.

Negligence cases deserving severe punishment.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A police sub inspector in civil dress, his wife and three kids aged 8, 5 and 1 were brought to casualty. All profusely bleeding. My job as an intern was to secure IV line and stop bleeding. As the CMO questioned the PSI, we all realised as suspected from the stink that the police officer was drunk. He had run into a braking truck from behind. One kid and the wife died the same night. He created a ruckus in his drunk state, threatening to kill everyone in the casualty. “If my wife dies, I will see to it that your life is ruined” he threatened to the CMO. The CMO kept on doing his duty, stressed and hurt. We were all real scared next few days. Everyone sympathises with such a loss. No one will aid or enjoy anyone’s death in a hospital.
Then why this curse of blames?

“This happened due to that doctor’s wrong treatment” : common words now heard in many clinics daily. Who causes maximum deaths due to negligence? Can only a doctor cause medical negligence? No.

These medical negligence cases must be punished too, with bad press, crores of rupees in fines, and public humiliation. You be the judge who is guilty:

Teenager son of an MLA. Played with wild snakes as a hobby, proudly encouraged by this MLA. Bitten by a cobra, landed in icu critical. A patient on ventilator was ‘shifted out early’ to accomodate the MLAs son.

Doctor advised a blood thinning medicine to prevent clots after diagnosing clotting disorder,. Patient went with her husband to a quack, took unknown herbal medicine and stopped blood thinner. Developed strokes, now in a vegetative state.

Patient advised to quit alcohol,,as it caused fits. Counselled with family and friends. In a week had alcohol with same friends, had fits, died in casualty.

Diabetic, told to control diet, continued to binge-eat sweets, lovingly cooked by wifey. Landed in coma due to very high blood sugars.

Pet dog, unimmunised, bit many on the same day, the dog died in three days. One diabetic patient bit by this dog died of sepsis / infection (not rabies). Immense horror among the ten-odd families of bitten members till date after a year.

Kid aged 14, parents allowed him to ride two wheeler on road without licence, killed on spot colliding with a truck. Toddler unwatched on the road died, run over by a truck.

60 year old Mother has giddiness for three days, son and daughter in law not free till fourth day to take her to hospital. Dies in casualty due to stroke.

Patient advised not to fast as it may increase chances of having fits. Fasted and landed in ICU with status epilepticus (a series of continuous fits).

Traffic police at a crowded junction busy with his “routine” away from his spot. Head on collision, two dead.

Unfortunately, in almost all above cases, the treating doctors were beaten up, casualty staff and hospitals vandalised, doctors sued, bad press judged an entire profession almost like a criminal, for not saving the victim.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Often the relatives refuse to take patients to higher centers, expecting “big, advanced treatments and impractical outcomes” from low-cost, small nursing homes not equipped with specialty facilities, then end up vandalising or blaming such set-ups upon inevitable disappointment. Missed medicine, overdose, unobserved children, helpless neglected elderly parents, smoking, alcohol, traffic accidents all cause millions of deaths. So do delayed admissions, some herbals and “unknown” medicines, hunger, poverty, stress at home and workplace.

But it is the “death in hospital” that alone matters, and by default the blame is pinned upon the doctor!

Some actors can kill, rape, go naked, smoke, drink, race, gamble, pee in public, set records for drunken misdemeanours on and off screen, knowing that most illiterate and immature populations imitate them blindly. But they will tell the nation how the medical profession (for which they themselves did not opt in spite of excellent merit in school or in some cases even college) should behave and treat patients!

The few honourable judges who have now realised the “blackmail potential” of medical negligence cases, have fortunately started referring these cases to panels of medical experts before concluding and fixing charges. The only maturity issue that remains is about local goons and politicos with flitting loyalties looking for publicity at the cost of the harmless and intellectual population of doctors. These goons turn the helpless frustration, panic reaction towards tragedy and poverty of our society into anger against doctors and hospitals. As long as there are sane people in the responsible media, there is good hope.

Doctors must start recording without bitterness, any hostile tendencies, lies, deviation from duties towards the patient, advised and declined tests and treatment, neglect and avoidance patterns to provide adequate care for the patient by the relatives. Also the exact circumstances of onset of the problems (patient was drunk / drugged / under medication effect / fasting / missed medicine) etc. and relevant past that may have contributed to the event. This will minimise the allegations and misrepresentation of facts.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Ofcourse the doctors must also discharge their duty with the highest standards of practice possible in their set-up. They must communicate well and explain the condition atleast once to the concerned relatives. They must behave courteously, sympathetically and try to understand and forgive the panic states of relatives within the sphere of civilised behaviour. We all love our patients. But like in every other relationship, we fail to say it aloud and make it clear with our behaviour, thanks to heavily stressful and inadequate lives we lead. Let us make an effort on our side to take one more step in the direction of kindness and understanding, in a hope of saving this profession from defamation at the hands of middlemen.

Let us make a greater effort to tell the society that it is only a doctor who will never intend harm. The only reliable rescue from the clutches of death, even a doctor fails sometimes. The effort has to be recognised if not always rewarded, but never suspected.

Negligence, you see, is easy to pin only upon the doctor.
All others are forgiven any number of deaths in all other types of negligence.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“Why can’t the doctor be more compassionate, spend more time with patients?”

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“Why can’t the doctor be more compassionate, spend more time with patients?”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Ms. Bonnie Wilson asks:
“When are doctors (not all) going to grow some compassion or least show some and listen to what we actually have to say and maybe spend just a few more minutes to get to know the patient a little bit???? Then maybe more patients would appreciate their doctor more. I’ve been fighting a disease for 16 years now and a lot of doctors don’t even spend five minutes with you. Only speaking from many years of experience as a patient”.

Dear Ms Wilson, thanks for asking this question, it helps me introspect.

Simple answer:
Give the doc a patient who pays as per time and skill required for the consult, and they will spend an entire day with that patient. Give the doc a patient who writes down “Doctor, I have complete faith and trust in you, do your best to treat me, I promise not to sue you or blame you if in the course of my treatment something goes wrong. I respect your intention, and know that you are a human being capable of mistakes, I will be compassionate to you too.”, and they will cross all barriers to help / satisfy that patient every which way medically feasible.
Also add “I will endlessly wait in the doctor’s waiting room till the earlier patient smiles and leaves”.

Not possible? There you are!
In the 15 years of medical training, we hear innumerable sermons about being compassionate and “Listening to and Understanding” the patient. We have always learnt and taught in medicine to “Listen” carefully, so most doctors attempt this in practice, not all keep it up. Some learn the knack to “extract” the correct info to work faster.

Now imagine the Doctor’s side.

How long is “Little longer”?
75% patients really don’t have the sense of time when they talk about their illness. Instead of being to the point and realizing that this is a “professional consultation”, they go on to recite unnecessary over description / umpteen repetitions of the same complaints, even after the doctor jots them down, with confused details of their own symptoms, changing them often. Some tell their own interpretations about each of the symptoms, and complete detailed conversations that they had with their family / other doctors about those symptoms. Many ask the doctor to repeat long explanations, then some relatives ask it again. Many revise prescription medicines at least three-four times, in spite of writing down correct instructions. Many keep blaming the doctors and crying in our cabin for “incurable” disease diagnoses, thinking that the doctor is hiding good treatment for want of more money! We sympathize and explain, but cannot go on all day, especially if other patients are waiting anxiously for their turn.

Many patients fumble, forget, come disorganized (this is super-exaggerated in India, where there is no unified health record system, and patients carry messed up bundles of test reports / case sheets from many different specialists). Most (even literates) come without even the list of currently ongoing medicines, then call their family from doc’s cabin to enquire about these, and then the huge discussion about spellings, content etc. consumes double the scheduled time of consult, while other patients wait and complain. There is total lack of awareness of one’s own health responsibilities, even those who spend hours chatting in the waiting room don’t organise their thoughts or make notes for the consult, wasting time with the doc in “recalling” things!

In the western world too, there are many patients who go on describing the “unnecessary detail”, some talk too much, some talk slow, take a long time to recall and answer, and mostly come “unprepared” for the consult, without noting down questions they want to ask, and symptoms / medicines they want to discuss. Then the innocent “recalling” in the doctor’s cabin is quite irritating for the overworked doctors.

The third and the most difficult category of patients: the “over-prepared” patients / relatives, who have hyper-googled every symptom, every medicine and then come with a huge (and mostly irrelevant) list of questions about their minor symptoms. Stupidest of the claims on the internet are then discussed unnecessarily, and the frightened patient / relative really test the patience of the doctor. They are seldom satisfied with anything or anyone.

At what price?
Enter medical insurance. Enter the “Charitable Labelling” of healthcare in India, where iPhone will cost the same as in USA and UK, but the superspecialist doctor trained in USA/UK/Canada/ Australia etc. (with his own life, merit and money) must charge as per the basic general practitioner and local socio-political expectations. So the doctor has no freedom to charge the consult as per time required.

Result: more time translates into less income, worldwide.

Reaction of the society: So what if you earn less? You are a doctor. You are a spiritual saint who just earns in goodwill and respect, converts that by magic into money and then we charge you everything including taxes in cash! We all can dream luxury and good life, you can’t!

My question: What’s in it for the doctor in spending more (extra) time with the patient?

It is a pleasure for the good doctor to spend more time, explain in detail and compassionately listen to each patient, but then he/ she returns home to piles of unpaid bills and an unhappy family. Most Indian specialists don’t even afford their own home by the age of 40! Most western doctors are frustrated by the dictat of insurance companies that for a decent earning, they must see higher number of patients. No insurance company pays a good doctor better.

As for Compassion issue:
I have some really innocent questions to ask patients / society:

1. When any doctor was prosecuted for medical negligence in some case, how many times has any patient openly said “This doctor was very good to me”? Many doctors prosecuted must have saved hundreds of lives. Who stood by them when their careers were ruined by single mistakes? How many patients whose life they saved offered to help with the compensations the punished docs had to pay?

2. How many times did society / luminaries / media show compassion to the needs / plights of medical profession? Underpayment and Overwork, Victimisation and Insecurity are universal in this profession. Who showed any compassion ?

3. Can you be compassionate to someone who is being a “Customer” with the right and threat to sue you for an amount that will ruin your life, reputation, career and family? Can you be compassionate to someone who suspects every motive of yours, cross checks everything you say, argues with you, threatens you, does not have faith in you and will forget you the day their health problem is over, only to return when they need you again?

4. Can you be compassionate to someone who records your words of reassurance and uses them against you as a legal proof of “misguiding”? Can you talk nicely to someone who treats you arrogantly, mannerlessly and looks down upon you as a “Money maker” rather than a respectably educated hardworking Doctor?

Indian Docs carry the whole burden of the country’s mismanaged healthcare system upon their shoulders. Millions of poor, unaffording patients are RIGHT NOW being treated by thousands of doctors FREE. Most patients get better than not.
But
When the uneducated filmstars rubbish the whole profession to prove themselves tall, some movie claims that doctors treat dead bodies to earn more money, no one speaks a word against it. Why?
When senior doctors who spent lifetime serving the poor are wrongly suspended by politicians without any enquiry, not a peep from the society.
Why?
When doctors are killed, attacked upon, and abused, media justifies / glorifies such events.
Why?
Some of the senior doctors cannot stop talking ideal, even at the cost of their children’s lives. “Spend more time with the patient, be more compassionate” they say. I agree.
But we never hear from them when a doctor is killed. They are never seen defending those doctors who faced 12 crores worth compensation punishments, when laws like PCPNDT send young and old doctors directly to jail for documentation errors. It is very fashionable and hip to be a hypocrite and speak what people like. To understand any issue, there is a simple formality: think of both sides. Who thinks about the Doctor’s side of the story?

There is a worldwide notion: that doctors are guilty of earning more money by wrong means like hurrying. For those who think this, I have one question: Which Doctor in the world has more money than the price of YOUR life? If they save you, they are blamed for high charges. If they don’t save you, they are sued for unbelievably stupid compensations. This is the paradox: that lost lives have become costlier, saved lives don’t matter anymore.

There of course are a few greedy doctors, who need to improve. These are few and a shame.

The real tragedy of our faithless lives is this: Nobody ever thinks that a doctor may really be working faster and harder to help more patients rather than to earn more money!! He/ She may be struggling with his / her loans, sacrificing his/her own health and family time, fighting frustration, but still listening day-in and day-out to crying, complaining people merely out of the wish to relieve their agonies.

What price is the time you are away from your family? What price is years of sleepless nights? What price is the mental trauma of seeing dead bodies every day? What compassion did any doctor get for these, from media, judiciary, society, anyone?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Less time does not mean wrong diagnosis or approach. Mostly it means “Cut off talk to bare minimum interaction necessary for this consult”.

@ Bonnie Wilson, thanks for the opportunity you created for me to answer this concern. While this is not a personal reply, I agree with you that more time and compassion will go a long good way, but then both sides need to introspect and change.
RD

Freedom to criticize other people’s religious beliefs / faith is redundant.

Before one can criticize or mock any God/Religion it is imperative that they come up with better concepts for mass peace and solace, at least a patient hearing that most people in pain / suffering require desperately .
The majority of world is poor and illiterate. A bunch of rich, developed, civilised, gun wielding educated people cannot decide to hurt the feelings of a majority that chooses to believe in some guiding spirit/ power which gives them solace. Religion and God are individual choices, and the first necessity of civilisation is to know that their own freedom does not preclude respecful acceptance of each other’s choices, unless they hurt someone.
Freedom is supreme, but only if not used to hurt someone. If the use of freedom is to mock and hurt and condescendingly show down weaker people for what they do to be rid of their suffering, or to get closer to their chosen concept of God, then that freedom is worse than tyranny of a dictator.
We all know that as financial status rises, Love, Ethics, Compassion decrease. Just because one has money and freedom one cannot hurt mass feelings of God and Religion. Just as we have good teachers / Godfathers in every field (including acting / film making), medicine, law etc., there are teachers in all religions to guide people, as the illiterate (even most literare) cannot understand many concepts of religion. A living example is Hon. Dalai Lama. Saint Dnyaneshwar, Saint Tukaram, Saint Kabeer, So many Muslim and Christian and Sikh saints and Gurus brought peace upon multitudes. There is no justification of superstition, no backing up treachery in the name of religion, but there is also a strong reason to question open mockery. If you have objections to God or religion, or how one had chosen to practice his / her religion, you can keep them upto yourself, or allow everyone in the world to comment, mock, question, ridicule, print anything about you, your work, family, ancestors, religion, sexuality, lifestyle etc. It is surprising that homosexuality is openly acceptable to the developed world in the name of freedom, but religious choices are not.
Good Godmen are more of a necessity in today’s world, they are certainly more necessary than filmy people who drive Rolls Royce with a “specific” superstitious number, who make crores adversely commenting about religion, but shut up like strangled pigeons about corrupt politicians, religious and other forms of terrorism, and the filth in their own film / media industry. Just because they can make fun of anything, they think they must. When it comes to open analysis of their own personal life, the beg, pressurise, buy the media to hide facts and cry invasion upon their privacy. Well, is religious belief or faith not the most private affair of people? Will you hear and solve people’s woes in absence of these real connoisseurs of humanity: the good Godmen in every religion who strive to bring peace to millions?? Shall all religious saints/ godmen direct the thousands of sufferers to the film industry for proper spiritual guidance?
There are hundreds of saints in each religion who don’t take anything from anyone and bring peace and solace to thousands, by counselling. This article is dedicated to them.

Rajas Deshpande