Tag Archives: Criticaldiagnosis

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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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 Sunshine Girl

The Sunshine Girl

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful 14 year old girl was almost motionless. Her body was completely stiff, eyes fixed in one position, she could not move at all. Any attempt to speak or move would send her entire body in violent spasms. She could not even cry for the fear of this painful stiffness, but her pillow was wet with the tears rolling down her eyes. Her parents had wheeled her in on a stretcher. They had landed just yesterday in Mumbai, travelling from Iraq with her. Her father was illiterate, while the mother was a science graduate from Baghdad University. While internally torn with the condition of her daughter, the mother very calmly and peacefully explained me the condition of her daughter Khazan.

On the day of school annual function just five months ago, Khazan’s teachers in Iraq noticed that she was limping while dancing on the stage. They told her mother about this. Khazan was taken to a Neurologist there, who found that she had some neurological signs, with brown coloured rings in her eyes. This ring called a ‘KF’ring is usually found in patients who have a rare disease called ‘Wilson’s Disease’. Due to a fault in Liver, copper cannot be excreted out of body, it accumulates in the liver and in the blood, rising to high, toxic levels. This excess copper in the blood then starts damaging every organ in the body, but first it causes severe damage in the brain and eyes. If not treated, the patient becomes disabled soon and dies. The biggest problem is that many patients may worsen with treatment in the initial phase, with medicines which act fast. The cheaper medicine (Zinc) which does not cause such worsening, is too slow to act, it takes months. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Khazan was started with the first medicine in Iraq, but unfortunately, she became paralysed due to the side effects of the medicine. The Neurologist in Iraq started with the second, extremely costly drug. Her parents sold off their land, business and even home, and shifted to a rental small house to afford this medicine that had to be imported from USA. As fate would have it, Khazan reacted adversely to this too and further worsened. She became completely paralysed, could not eat or speak, and was then advised the last option, the curative treatment for this disease: Liver transplant. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They applied for loans from some charity organisations, and landed in India for Liver trasnsplantation. “We were told that the doctors in India are the best in the world, and the cost of treatment is lowest in India. So we decided to come here” her mother told. Indeed, the cost of medical as well as surgical treatment in India is lesser than half compared to the developed world. For simple appointments with specialists, the waiting list in the developed world exceeds weeks to months, and surgical appointments take years. Once, in my childhood, one of my uncles gave me some dessert, like everyday, which I didn’t care to finish. My aunt asked me with surprise: “Why don’t you eat such a delicious dessert?”. My uncle immediately said “Because he gets it so easily. Ask those who don’t get it, they will love it”.

We found that Khazan was almost skin and bones, dehydrated, and anemic. She had developed many Parkinson-like symptoms and some psychosis. I explained her condition and told her mother: that she was semi-critical, that I wanted to start with the cheaper, third medicine and give her supportive care, but it would take a long time, I could not guarantee anything. Her mother told me via the Arabic interpreter Mr. Tabrez: “Doctor, we do not want surgery for her. Do what you would have done for your own daughter. We will close our eyes and do whatever you say. We will hope she improves, but we understand you cannot guarantee anything”. Now the onus was upon me, the responsibility was mine. We started treatment. Khazan’s graduate mother knew more about Wilson’s disease than many medical students, yet she never came across as arrogant or argumentative. She politely asked doubts. A good doctor grows with every patient. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My students started helping out the family, making Khazan feel at home. Love and compassion for the patient enhances the effects of all medicines in most cases. Add the trust and willpower of the patient, and you usually have a winning prescription. From the shadows of a near-certain death, Khazan’s body and soul started to awaken to the sunlight called life. She gradually started speaking, drinking water, and in a few weeks, eating small morsels. They had to return to Iraq, and we communicated via video chats. They returned twice to India for reassessment and change in treatment.

A few months after their last visit, I received a letter. It was written in English, by Khazan. She had joined college now, and wrote that she wanted to become a doctor like me. Her mother had added in Arabic: “My girl is the sunshine of my life, thank you for bringing her back from the claws of death”. I had received my reward. Khazan is doing very well now since last three years, with God’s grace. Of course I did not forget to remind her that most of the credit of her recovery was to the unparallelled grit and efforts of her mother.

Magical, Near-supernatural, Miraculous recoveries happen every day in India. Patients, young and old, with almost nil chances of survival, walk home smiling every day, in almost every Indian town, even in the most rural areas, thanks to the efforts of thousands of doctors working 24/7. These doctors are never appreciated or rewarded. This post is dedicated to those messiahs of Indian Medicine.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This story is real. Many doctor colleagues and physiotherapy students have helped me treat this patient over years. Wilson’s Disease can be completely cured, there are many experts working on tis in India.

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What A Doctor Can Not Prescribe. .

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What’s the nature of your work?” I asked the patient.

“Nothing much.. I just sit like you all day long. It’s an office job” he replied, and winked looking at his wife, who rebuked him visually. I chose to ignore the sarcastic slur. I wanted to concentrate upon the diagnosis. After a thorough examination I wrote him a prescription and explained him changes in lifestyle.

When I advised him sleep and food discipline, he proudly told me “That I am very particular about.. since so many years I eat three times a day and sleep peacefully over eight hours”. I had a strong urge to tell him that in last twenty-five years of practice, there was never a night of undisturbed sleep thanks to hospital and patient calls, and there rarely was a straight week without skipped meals. I held my rebellious tongue, another patient waited outside. All said and done, I had myself chosen this career, and the fact that people were bitter towards doctors didn’t deter me from offering to solve their health puzzles.

The next patient walked in with a big “Hullo! Raja, pehchana kya (recognise me?)?”.. he was an old schoolmate, had come with his wife. She had had complicated neurological problems. After a lengthy clinical examination, review of many reports, and a long consultation, I wrote her a prescription. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“You charge so much for only writing these few words on the paper?” asked my schoolmate, desperately trying to sound jovial but overtly being critical and again, sarcastic.

I politely asked him to sit in my chair. “Please sit here and see if you can write the same three lines” I requested him. He hesitated at first, but then came over, held the pen and asked me: “Tell me what to write..”.

I told him to first write his wife’s name on that paper, date it, and then write Rx, which begins the drug prescription. Then I told him the name of the first drug. He wrote it down correctly.

“What’s so difficult about that?” he asked..

“Now tell your wife that this drug can either do good or bad, it can solve the problem in most cases, but it has a potential to cause serious side effects, including death if she is allergic to it. It may cause bleeding in the brain, stomach or anywhere, it can cause asthma-like cough, or any unpredictable reaction”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

His wife looked suspiciously at him. “Why don’t you let the doctor write?” she said, and then turning towards me said, “Bhaisaab, my husband has this nasty habit of arguing with everyone. Excuse us, I know it takes decades of study to be able to write that prescription”.

My schoolmate was not done with being offensive yet. He smiled sarcastically. “You are trying to scare me. Have you seen any death due to this simple medicine?” he asked.

“Yes” I replied him in truth. Aspirin causes many deaths indeed!

“Write the second medicine now” I told him, “it can have reaction with the first medicine or other medicines she is already taking”.

“What to do in that case?” He asked, now hesitant.

“It depends upon what side effects emerge. Many possibilities, many different answers. But each of that line has a potential to cause serious damage.” I replied.

He rose from my chair.

“Sorry yaar. I thought you were just charging fees for sitting there and writing effortlessly. How do you remember so many hundred drugs, their side effects, their reactions with each other? Aren’t you scared?” he asked.

“I am sometimes scared. Every doctor is. You never know which prescription can turn into a nightmare. The more you have studied, the more you have experienced, the safer you feel. You can imagine the stress of writing forty prescriptions a day, an average for every doctor. Still more dangerous is the surgeon’s job, every patient entering an operation theatre has some degree of fatal risk”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Oh so that’s why doctors charge so much fees for every prescription!” He was indeed a fighter!

I didn’t want to explain to him that the land, the rent, the petrol, paper, and time cost the same to a doctor just like any other citizen. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Just then there was a loud noise outside. We rushed out. A patient’s child was having a fit, her body all twisted and eyes white. Such was the impact that her head was bleeding, and she was frothing at mouth. The nurse was already by her side, I wore my gloves and tried to stop the bleeding, comforting the head of this child. In some time, the fit stopped, and the pateient became all floppy. Her respiration had been blocked by the blood and froth that choked her throat. A resident doctor ran around to get a crash cart, we opened the patient’s mouth, sucked out the blockage as the nurse pushed in the injectables. The child stabilised, her breathing resumed. As the wardboys kept her on the stretcher, I noticed my schoolmate behind me who was watching this in horror. He suddenly held his head and sat down.

“He gets a chakkar (giddiness) when he sees blood” his wife told me.

The earlier patient, who had commented “I sit like you all day” was also still in the lobby, watcing this whole episode. . He came over. “I help people too – just like you. People come to me every day for my advice. I am a social worker for XYZ political party. I have also saved many lives like you doctors.” he said.

I had no prescriptions for his mentality!

No pharmaceutical makes a common sense tablet, and there’s no injection for jealous egos!

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You)

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the plane landed, I called up the driver who was scheduled to pick me up from Goa airport.

“Hullo, Mr. Clement? I’m Dr. Rajas”

“Haan daktar. Tu aaya kya? Bahar nikalke miss call de mai ayega” (Have you arrived? Come out and give me a missed call, I will come there”) . He would have said the same sentence to the President as well. Goans are least hung up on artificial flowery language, they are the friendliest lot as a society. It was after a year, that the same Clement said to me: “Tere liye apun jaan bhi dega parwa nai” (“I can give my life away for you without any hassles”), when I thanked him for something.

Goa has some excellent Neurologists, and my visiting is actually redundant. Yet somehow, maybe because they keep quite busy, or sometimes patients seek a second opinion, I have been seeing a good number of patients every visit. In the very first visit, after I saw an elderly lady and explained her the treatment, she bowed and said “Dev Borem Korum Doctor”. That means “Thank You Doctor”.

Then I pleasantly noticed: irrespective of what was the diagnosis, what treatment was given, whether there was treatment for the patient’s condition or not, whether the patient improved or not, almost every patient said either “Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You) or “God Bless You Doctor”. Even if surgery was advised, even if there were side effects of medicines, even if the outcome was not as expected in rare cases, the “Thank You”and “God Bless You” never changed. It had nothing to do with any particular social class. The rich, the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated, people from every religion, every age group said it. It is a part of that culture: the Goan culture.

Late one night after the OPD, when we were driving on a beautiful long empty Goa road near the beach, I mentioned this fact to my friend Dr. Samuel (God Bless Him for the exotic dinners he takes me to!), he stopped his car and looked quite affected. “I wondered whether anyone else had noticed that. It feels so beautiful! When the patient is grateful and brings you blessings, you automatically feel responsible to do the best for them. Money never matters in that relationship. We must never take patient’s kindness for granted. So many of them actually say Thank You, God Bless you, but sometimes we are too preoccupied with work, anger, ego and other things to reciprocate and encourage that kindness”.

I told him about my late Professor Dr. Sorab Bhabha, who stood up and greeted every time a patient entered or left his cabin. The onus of initiating a good doctor-patient relationship primarily lies upon the doctor, and it is extremely essential to follow the best of manners and etiquette, kindest of language when dealing with patients.

A very sweet girl who followed up for epilepsy recently told me that she visited me not only for medical purpose but because she was inspired by the way I appear calm and composed, the fact that I never raised my voice and always spoke compassionately with everyone. I had to tell her the truth. “Thank you mam, but I am quite short tempered outside the hospital. Even the junior doctors working with me sometimes find me intimidating. But I have to change when I am with a patient. I don’t think that any patient comes to me because I am any better than anyone else in the profession. I prefer to think that they choose me because they trust I can solve their problem. Will you be rude to someone seeking your help? Then how can I get angry with a patient? Every patient coming to me has that hidden trust, which I must justify. Only rarely, if the patient misbehaves or says something insulting, do I lose my calm.”.

“That’s what I like. So humble!” she had to have the last word!

Yes! The day I bring my ego inside the hospital, I will no more be a good doctor. Even the most illiterate patient understands when the doctor is being rude or artificial. Only when it is genuine, the patient will feel the warmth of my compassion and care. It has nothing to do with sweet talking or a show of affection. The only way to do this is to actually incorporate it within one’s depths so that it becomes one’s originality. Kindness and compassion must be the original, genuine qualities of every doctor who expects gratitude from each one of his patients. It does work in most cases.

After dinner, Dr. Sam took me with two other friends to the beach and we silently stared at the luminous moon for a long time. The music of those waves matched the dance of that moonlight upon the ocean. Just as one can feel the glow of the moonlight upon one’s skin, I could feel those numerous blessings keeping my soul warm and happy.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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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 reassured her that it was ok, and returned the gesture by touching her feet too. I told her I will try my best, and that 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 my feet, although I was 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 my 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 this 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

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That Order To “Stop Saving Life”..

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Arrest! Sir… Code Blue!” the nurse shouted. The casualty was full, all eight beds had serious patients, and their relatives waited near them. Every second matters.

“Everyone out” my co-intern shouted. Some moved out, some stayed. Two other interns were already attending similar patients, two of us ran to the arrested patient. The nurse had already started the chest massage. I gave patient the position for inserting the breathing tube, as my co-intern Dr. Ajoy took over the cardiac massage. The senior medical officer, Dr. Hazare, experienced with a lot of medical wisdom, stood near the bed. He calmly gave orders for the last-attempt medicines in such emergencies.

The chest massage to save lives is rather forceful, its force has to reach the heart. The chest wall has to be pumped down 2-2.5 inches with every compression, and this has to be real fast: over 100 times a minute. It looks very traumatic, but it is useless if not done exactly like this. It is quite a disturbing scene for the relatives. The patient’s son kept on shouting “Don’t hurt him” loudly. The medical officer repeatedly asked him and the five relatives around the patient to leave. They refused.

The Medical Officer Dr. Hazare then asked us to stop the CPR. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We were baffled. How could one stop the life saving CPR?

The patient who had arrested was from a nearby slum, father of a local goon out on bail, like most goons in India. He (the patient) was in his late fifties, a chronic alcoholic and smoker, with severe liver damage. He’d had excess alcohol on the prior night. That morning, he had had a convulsion, and was brought to the casualty after many hours of delay . An arrogant, drunk, politically supported crowd posing as relatives accompanied him, a common nuisance in almost every Indian hospital.

We continued the CPR. Dr. Hazare went out.

After a direct injection of adrenaline into the heart through the chest, the patient’s heart restarted, and he started to gasp, making some movements. We quickly shifted him to the ICU. The proud feeling of saving a life gripped us. There was no time for celebration, but Dr. Ajoy kept whistling on the way for our midnight tea.

Later that night, Dr. Hazare called us. He was angry, yet calm and smiling, an ability that only the most evolved souls can have.

“Listen, we are in India. Most of the people around us are not only uneducated and ignorant, they are also quite violent and paranoid. Emotional dramas are considered a normalcy. There’s a tendency to shift the blame of delayed treatment and bad outcomes on to the doctors. You were risking your life. If the patient’s heart had not restarted, the relatives could have blamed you, even hurt you”.

“But Sir, they saw that we were desperately trying to save the patient’s life” I argued.

“YOU think so. They don’t know anything about the CPR. They refused to go out. You saw how arrogant they are. These things work only when the outcome is good. If the outcome is bad, the doctor is automatically held guilty. I told you, we are in India. People like to think that doctors are wrong, whatever you do. ” Dr. Hazare said. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We didn’t think he was right. Still, we respected him for his wisdom, so we just apologised and went on to deal with the casualty again. It was a busy night, still a very negative feeling about what Dr. Hazare had said kept shadowing my thoughts. How could such a senior doctor ask someone to stop CPR?

Dr. Ajoy went to his room at 5 AM and returned by 7 AM to relieve me. I went home at 7 AM, had a quick bath and breakfast, to return at 9 AM.

The casualty was all devastated, ruins were seen all around. Many doctors were rushing in and out. All beds were empty except one.

Dr. Ajoy was on that casualty bed, unconscious, intubated and with blood soaked bandages on his head. He had many cuts on his entire body. Our colleagues were trying to push intravenous fluids fast into his veins. Dr. Anirudh, another intern with us, told me even as he could not stop crying: “That patient we had resuscitated yesterday evening… he had another cardiac arrest in the ICU this morning… his relatives came down and attacked Ajoy. They said that the patient died because of the forceful CPR. They stabbed Ajay and hit his head with iron rods. Dr. Hazare came and tried to rescue Ajoy, they even attacked him. We were waiting for you. Do you have his parent’s contact?”.

In a state of shock, I could not speak. I reached out for my bag, got my diary and called Dr. Ajoy’s father in Calcutta.

“Why?” Dr. Ajoy’s shocked father asked when I told him Ajoy was attacked, injured and serious. How could the father of a thin built, cute, brilliant scholar ever understand that people could brutally attack his child for trying to save their loved one?

I had no answers. Dr. Hazare’s sentences kept ringing in my brain, I could not utter them. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Eventually, Dr. Ajoy recovered. He is now in the UK. His father came over last week, for a check-up. While leaving, he kept his gracious hand upon my head and said with immense love: “Save many lives beta, but take care of yourself first. I still cannot sleep well due to what happened”.

That night, I stared at the sky, and kept thinking: Actually, this is why no doctor ever sleeps well in India. Saving lives comes with the inherent risk of losing one’s own, and this happens only in our beloved motherland.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Religion? Caste? Race? Nationality?

Religion? Caste? Race? Nationality?
No, I cannot think about that.
A Bullet has shattered the skull, damaged half the brain of this young person of 22 years.
A surgeon has put together the pieces of skull, a fragment of metal is still seen deep inside the brain. This person has a whole future of decades to tackle with a severe disability. As doctors, we only think: what best can be done to repair the brain, how best to resettle the patient in their future life, how to help them overcome their disability.
”Shoot, Kill, Hunt, Enemy, Revenge” are not the words any true doctor in this world can ever like!
We can never think about the race, caste, religion or nationality of any human being. Because a Doctor is always above any sort of discrimination. © DR. RAJAS DESHPANDE
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Slaughtering The Precious

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

At the casualty door she started shouting at me even before I went in. “We don’t want any tests. We don’t want to admit him in any critical care unit. Keep him in the general ward you have, we are now financially exhausted. Give basic medicines only “. Mrs. Julie, the patient’s daughter, went on:”We have already signed palliative care form”.

“Let me see the patient first “ I said and went in.

The resident doctor had earlier told me that the patient, an old man, was conscious, speaking quite well, aware of his illness. He was intermittently getting unconscious for a few minutes. He had high grade fever. He had lung cancer, and a brain scan a few days prior had revealed that that he had a secondary in the brain too. He had just completed his chemotherapy. The resident doctor had already started medicine for fits just now.

As I examined him, the jovial Mr. Shaw smiled back and told me that he was feeling a little giddy and tired, otherwise he had no complaints. He could even stand and walk without support. His blood pressure was normal, but the heart rate was quite high due to the fever.

“I think you have probably developed seizures due to the secondary in brain. There seems to be some infection too, we will run some tests and start antibiotics” I told him.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“When will I feel better, doctor?” He asked, “I want to be home and spend every possible day of my remaining time with my grandchildren. I want to also finish a book I am writing. I am told I have only a few months left. How much time do I have? Six months? Four atleast?” he asked, still smiling. Only doctors know what a smiling face with a crying heart actually looks like. “Every passing moment is extremely precious for me, doc! Please cure me fast” he said.

I assured him that if the tests showed nothing serious, he could go home once fever subsided, but the fits needed long term treatment. While we were having this talk he suddenly stiffened and his body developed jerky movements, then he became unconscious.

Ordering the emergency injections for fits, I told the casualty doctor to shift him to the critical care unit.

Coming out, I explained this to the angry daughter.

“Doc, we don’t want to treat him in any ICU. We also do not want any tests now. Please give him tablets instead of injections, we want to take him home as soon as his fever goes down” she replied.

This has become very common now, relatives of elderly people admitting them in hospitals, but refusing to do any tests, use injectable / costly medicines or shifting to critical care units. A doctor cannot refuse patients in such a condition, and it is an extremely painful, stressful situation to not be able to correctly investigate, treat a patient because relatives are unwilling. Ninety Nine percent of the times, money is the only reason. There are many charity, low cost and even good government hospitals, but the relatives also want the “show”of having admitted the patient at some posh hospital. Beyond a certain level, Private

hospitals cannot go on funding tests and treatments of hundreds of such patients even on a compassionate basis, because the poverty in India is never ending.

Compassion is the most abused entity in India.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I told her that even if they had signed for palliative care, his current condition was treatable, his fever and fits caused him distress and could be treated, but she staunchly refused to let us send any tests. We started with oral medicines after a lot of deliberation, keeping fingers crossed that he responds. He did.

On the third day, Mr. Shaw walked out of the hospital with his patent smile.

Just next week, his daughter returned to the OPD: “Doc, dad passed away two days ago. After going home he had fever again, but we decided to manage him at home. Somehow he could not get through this time. I have come to get your signature on these bills from his last medicines, we want to get reimbursed”.

“Was he seen by a doctor at home?” I asked her.

“No doc, we gave him the same medicines that he was earlier given for fever. We also searched online and ordered them. But in a way we also feel he is now relieved of all his troubles” she said, hushing up the topic.

I signed the papers, a duty and an obligation.

In every hospital, every day, we see parents rushing, crying, selling everything they have, urging doctors to save their children on one side, and grown up children urging doctors to hasten up the deaths of their parents on the other . Many sweet, politically correct and legally blurred terms are now available for masking these murders.

A patient with a terminal illness may himself sign for “non-aggressive / palliative” care (meaning pain relief, superficial / minor treatment without aggressive effort to save or maintain life), or if the patient is not in a good mental condition to sign such a consent, the relatives may sign so. However, in India where children mostly are responsible for the medical bills of the elderly, they flatly refuse to treat even treatable, reversible conditions citing “öld age” as a reason. Even in case of patients with terminal illness, to presume that someone is immediately unfit to live, or fit to die is like saying it is okay to terminate their life at someone else’s wish. This is cruel, unethical, immoral, and should stand supported in no courts of law.

However, these murders are a daily routine in India, and law has tied the hands of treating doctors and hospitals as one cannot investigate or treat a patient when the relatives haven’t given a consent. An evolution in the fraternity as well as in this society is necessary if a change is expected.(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Otherwise, when we all will eventually be old, however much we want to live on for a few more days, one day someone will decide that we don’t deserve to continue to live, without ever wanting to know what we wished.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Sensitive Girlfriend and The Monster

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“She is oversensitive, Doc. I try to explain to her that this is so dangerous, yet she does not want to change, and continues to suffer” said the boyfriend.

As a doctor, I am expected to be sensitive. I cannot be a phony and pretend to be sensitive while not being so. Fortunately, life and times, parents and teachers have always insisted that I remain sensitive to the core. I think that is one of the most precious quality any human being can have after peace. Naturally, I am biased towards the sensitive.

However, there is a big difference between the ‘hysterical, dramatizing’ ones and the truly sensitive.

“Can you give me an example?” I asked him, as the girl looked at him curiously.

“Yes” he said, “Her boss keeps on saying demeaning things to everyone, and she almost always comes home hurt. Even if I comment anything adverse, she gets hurt easily. Like yesterday I told her that she should be more practical and instead of asking to spend time with me, do something of her own. We had a great fight after that”.

“What were you doing when she asked this?” I asked him.

“Oh I was at home, relaxing, as I was tired from work” he said, cautiously.

His girlfriend smiled “Doc, he was playing games on his cellphone. I was tired after work too, but he refuses to spend quality time with me as he is now almost addicted to social media and games. The only time he wants me is when he is hungry”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

I saw at once what was happening. I was myself quite addicted to social media once, but now I have started to de-addict myself. It is indeed difficult, but for a doctor it is quite essential, nay, life-saving. My patient’s life and health depend upon the accuracy an wisdom of my decisions, and that is possible with only a hundred percent concentration. But that wasn’t what bothered me here.

I have been told umpteen times by people in the ‘business’ that “sensitivity and kindness” comes in the way of making money and other professional goals, that people skin and eat you alive so long as you allow them to exploit your sensitive nature. ‘Sensitivity’ to other people’s feelings is considered a weakness in most business circles, and right from the student days, we meet people who take advantage when you respect their feelings. This ranges from exploiting those who are mannerful, helpful, and kind, to creating a deliberate emotional disturbance for the competitor during a competition. Surprisingly, this is taken as a normal strategy even in such a gentleman’s game as cricket.

I could not find it in myself to be insensitive to how others feel. I could not switch on and off my emotional responses and sensitivity. Yet, I never felt that it was a shortcoming or a weakness. In fact, most of the patients I connected best with have told me that they find it very reassuring when a doctor is sensitive. Hence I devised a personal strategy: to keep away the advantage takers, the drama people, the insensitive robots who are only after money without caring about the feelings of others around them. Observe behavior rather than words, and you know a person well. This helped me quite a lot. I earn a little less than I would want, but I think that is a universal feeling, and that is never the prime aim of life.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

It made my life beautiful. Sensitive people bring much positivity, trust, faith and contribute significantly to the inner peace of others. With them around you are assured that you will not be deceived, not taken advantage of. That brings you the highest luxury upon earth: peace of mind.

Most bosses work on the perpetual Indian Corporate Philosophy “Unless you squeeze and crush, there’s no juice”. Employees at all levels are overburdened, asked to do a lot more than their job profile, forced to finish within insane deadlines and still treated like they are easily disposable. Employee health, physical or mental, is never the concern of any boss. A fault-finding, comparing, humiliating language is usually what bosses prefer and most employees accept. This builds up a culture of rudeness that is now accepted as a ‘reality and normalcy’ of any business. Very few honorable bosses treat their employees according to their sensitivity to enhance productivity. I wonder if Human Rights commissions or agencies, federal or private, ever notice this.

I asked the girlfriend if she wanted to contribute. She said she understood that he was stressed, but she worried about a ‘mental disconnection’ so common now because of digital addiction, and wanted to destress him by making him laugh and feel loved. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“I want a mental bonding with him and that is not happening, as almost all the time he is home he is occupied with his cellphone. In fact, doc, when we started dating, he used to tell me that my sensitivity attracted him most, he thought I could best nourish his soul” said the tearful lady.

I explained to the boyfriend that sensitivity, so long as it does not impair normal functioning, is a very precious attribute, that he was extremely fortunate that she was sensitive rather than insensitive. To consider her “right to companionship, dedicated time together” as an unnecessary ritual, because he wanted more time for social media browsing and gaming was the actual problem. In these days of equality, to “want her to be sensitive and enthusiastic” only as per his convenience was an unfair expectation. He assured me that he will make an effort to implement a few changes in his routine. I thanked him for accepting reason.

As they left, a fairy-like young girl of about 7 years walked in with posh parents. Her mother kept looking into the cellphone, and her father started to tell me about his continuous headache. Like every normal child, the kid pointed at my stethoscope and said she wanted it. Just before I could allow her, her father shouted at her.

“No” said the angry father, and looked at her mother with an expectation. The mother kept on looking into her cellphone. Then the father thrust his own cellphone on the hands of the kid and said “Here. Play your game, I need to talk to the doctor”.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

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