Tag Archives: Healthcare

“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”

“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, there is no improvement at all” said the angry husband, throwing the case-file upon my table.

Well this is not an extraordinary sentence for any doctor, one must be prepared to openly deal with this. I had been quite polite and well mannered with them, there was no reason he had to cross that line. I could understand though. When they pay my fees, they expect some result or satisfaction.

While teaching my students, I have always insisted that if the patient / relative says that there is no improvement or change with the prescribed medicine, one must first consider the possibility of a wrong diagnosis, a missed condition or a misinterpreted finding. Doctors are humans, and do commit mistakes, or misinterpret findings. This is normal, and happens with every doctor. Medicine is far more complicated than most people think they know. A good doctor knows this and learns, while all the time keeping patients safe, but a doctor with ego kills his own practice, and may cause harm to the patient.

I asked them to sit down and reassessed the case in detail. A 28 years old female. Headache, giddiness, imbalance, palpitations, breathlessness. Lack of sleep and bouts of crying. Past and family medical history not contributory. Physical examination completely normal. MRI of brain normal, Vitamin B12 and D levels low. I had started vitamin supplements, anti-anxiety medicines and an SOS for headache.

She told me all her earlier complaints had improved, but now she had a severe backache. I told the patient that I was trying my best to understand her condition, and to resolve her problem, but her findings and complaints didn’t match. She looked at her husband, and asked him “May I speak frankly to the doctor?”.

Openly agitated, the husband sarcastically offered to wait outside if she needed privacy. However he stood glued to the chair as if he knew her answer. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient thought for a moment, told him it’s ok he can wait inside, then started to talk. She revealed that she was the only child of her affluent parents, had passed engineering, but now had to quit job and stay at home to raise children. They lived in an extended family, with grand in-laws, in laws and an elder brother, his wife and two children. This patient was the ‘last in the line’ to take orders, all others being senior to her. Her husband and in-laws were perfectionists, and she was tired of their continuous expectations. She had dreamed of making a career too, wanted some free time outside home for herself, but year after year, she didn’t get even a minute for herself. She was tired of it all and there seemed no respite. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I am not averse to hard work, but the continuously condescending and fault-finding attitude makes me feel that I am useless”, she said, and added cautiously: “We were in the same institute and my ranks were always better than him. Look at where I am now” she started crying.

I offered them water and coffee, and waited for her to settle down. The husband became restless and defensive, but his tone was far lower. “I understand her problem, doctor, but what can I do? I cannot leave my family. My work pressures are quite high too, the IT industry is going through a bad phase”.

“I can assure you that she has no neurological problem now’ I replied, “she should improve with lifestyle changes, counseling for the family, and adequate free time for herself. I will refer you to a good counselor” I told them.

The husband laughed. “I can understand, but my parents will not. We will see what best we can do for her”. A bitter tone in his voice didn’t escape me.

‘Sir, she told us what bothered her, and must not be held guilty for trying to speak her mind. It will only help identify and treat the problem better. Please see a counselor together and avoid discussing this at home right now” I requested the husband. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There are many reasons why a patient does not improve. Untreatable medical conditions, depression, seeing the wrong specialist are the most common reasons, but there also are patients who want medical leave,those who want to avoid work, who want attention, so will keep on complaining of false symptoms. They do not improve with drug treatment.
On the other hand there are many who keep on taking the wrong medicines for years, those who self-medicate, do atrocious / injudicious dieting and exercises, yoga that doesn’t suit them, and do not follow the doctor’s instructions about abstinence, who keep on indulging salt, sweet, oil, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs freely available in India. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A doctor remains a lifelong medical student. A doctor who thinks he / she is always correct is most dangerous. It is not uncommon to meet doctors who are angry / upset with the patient / colleagues when their diagnosis, treatment is questioned. The first thought of a doctor when the patient does not respond positively should be to consider a misdiagnosis, reevaluate the case in more detail, reassure the patient, and obtain a second opinion if necessary. All this done, one must look into other possibilities, with an approach to resolve the issue rather than trying to shove down the patient’s throat their own faults.
We all go through bad patches in life, doctors and patients. If the child is wrong, the parents correct them still with love. A doctor’s attitude should be similar, with due care to also protect themselves. If not the doctor, who will understand the patient whose family refuses to understand them? In so many ways, especially in the Indian society, the doctor must don the role of an elder brother/ sister. Although patronising is legally discouraged in medical practice, and should be refrained from in cases where trust is questionable, one can make exceptions for some cases that need reassurance where the family fails to do so.

The nobility of our profession also lies in reassuring the patients that they are well cared for by their doctor, through the thick and thin of their life.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please Share Unedited.

A Dangerous Disease Called ‘Relatives’

A Dangerous Disease Called ‘Relatives’
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What all can happen, doctor?” asked the young lady accompanying her father.

He had had a vertigo for two years, now had developed headaches and had seen best of the specialists. Some of them had advised him an MRI scan, but the daughter who was “in-charge” of her father had decided to wait. They had undergone many treatments simultaneously: allopathic, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Herbal, Diet, plus various random suggestions by relatives (almost all patient’s relatives are experts on all medical topics except actually paying bills and donating blood).

The father, a victim of experimentation by a health enthusiast daughter whose profession was law, was visibly anxious and almost shaking.

After examining him, I told them that there were some soft signs, but also that a physical examination may often be inconclusive, hence it was wise to investigate. What must be done must be done. A true Saint, scientist, soldier or doctor will always live by those words. I must stress the need for the right investigations. I told the daughter that he must undergo a scan. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That’s when she asked “What are the possibilities?”
Imagine an anxious person sitting in front of you, dead scared of death or illness. He / she is praying God or providence that the doctor does not use and scary words like cancer, heart attack, paralysis, dementia, parkinson’s or early death. No one likes these words, the doctor likes them least. Almost every doctor thinks of the patient’s mental status before choosing the words in such cases. Some patients can even commit suicides if they are too stressed with the fear of long / grave disease.

However, the hyper daughter refused to be subtle.
I told her “You can ask me all the questions you want. But please remember that some answers may scare the patient, Also, I may not have all the answers at this point.’

“Can this be something dangerous? Like cancer? Can this be an emergency? Can it cause death? If so we will do the MRI today itself. Otherwise we will wait.” She said.

To protect the patient from death, suffering and disease is a doctor’s duty, but the law does not allow the doctor to protect the patient from such insensitive relatives. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Madam, there are limitations of physical examination,and we cannot see inside his body. Sometimes we find things wrong inside that can be cured with the correct early treatment. That is the reason we have tests and scans”. I told her patiently.

“But what are the chances of this being a cancer or something life threatening? If at all the scan shows something dangerous, can you guarantee it will be cured?” she asked.

I gave another shot of adrenaline to my patience. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“How does that help you?” I asked her, “Even if the chance of a dangerous possibility is low, say 5 %, will you take a chance on your father’s life just to avoid investigations? How can I guarantee the treatment or cure of something we both don’t know yet? By the way, what is your objection to get his scans done?”

“We will do the scan if you say this is urgent” she said.

My patience kissed me a goodbye.

“It is indeed necessary, I cannot say it is urgent. Now I must see another patient.” I replied. Then looking at her anxious father, I reassured him “It is a very low chance that there will be anything dangerous. Please relax. And we have cures for many diseases now, I am with you. Don’t worry”.
“Then can we wait for the MRI?” the daughter was incurable.
“No” I replied, calling in another patient.

I received many messages for next few days from her and her invisible brother asking if the scan was really necessary, where was it done cheapest, etc. I didn’t reply.

They returned after a week. The MRI showed a tumor causing pressure effects on the vital areas of lower brain. This indeed was an urgency, if not emergency. I told the daughter so.

“How come he developed a tumor? He never had it earlier. No one in our family had it ever” she asked angrily, “Is it the side effect of all the medicines he has taken in last two years?”.

I had almost forgotten in which society I was practicing. Education does not always convert into common sense. Money, skimpiness and hatred replace logic here. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“In most cases, a brain tumor is not the effect of commonly used medicines. I don’t know the contents of all the medicines you tried upon him. But the delay in doing tests is one definite major factor that your father has suffered so long”. I told her. What must be said must be said!

She changed the topic, a knack every doctor must learn from some lawyers!

The patient has now undergone a surgery by one of the best neurosurgeons, and fortunately the tumor has turned out non cancerous. His headaches and vertigo have gone. However his anxiety and fear will take a long time to go, he is on the medication for that.

The daughter has changed a lot too. The last time she visited for her own headaches, I told her to get a check scan done, and she showed me the reports the same evening. They were normal, she is happy now!

Many patients suffer for years, develop disability and some die due to such dangerous relatives who experiment upon them, delaying investigations and treatment. The most common purpose is saving money, but there are also whims and illogical, dangerous treatments without the knowledge of the contents and interactions between medicines of different medical and quackery streams. The doctors who try hard to save the damage in the last moments often become victims of criticism. This dangerous disease called “Relatives” who suggest everything but disappear when the patient truly needs them has become rampant in our society!

As for my patience, I had to take it for a long night drive and feed it a lot of icecream that day to agree to return to stay with me again.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

(Yes, some doctors take advantage and earn money through tests. This is definitely wrong, but the price of delayed and denied tests is far more. In fact, many relatives make that an excuse to avoid spending for the tests. It is conveniently forgotten that almost all essential tests are available at govt. / charity hospitals at a negligible cost).

Please share unedited.

The Bleeding Curse of an Extraordinary Doctor

22886306_1454137794681544_4590057867307928830_n

The Bleeding Curse of an Extraordinary Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I cannot sleep well, I cannot forget what happened” said the doctor who had come to consult. I was shattered myself. My usual poise was blown to pieces listening to what this mountain of sacrifice was telling me.

As Dr. Anil Dadarao Waghmare told me about his past, I was in frightful tears.

Son of a humble education officer, he had joined MBBS on merit basis, and completed it in time. He wanted to honour the government bond for two reasons: he had an inner desire to serve rural areas in India where medical care was not available, but he also had no other source of income and had no money for investment. This is the common story of most doctors graduating in India.

He joined as a medical officer and was soon posted in a very remote tribal area, where he went beyond his duty to help the illiterate poor tribals. He worked ‪24/7‬, attended all their problems like deliveries, poisonings, snake bites etc., but also went to visit homes of those who could not reach him. He offered his designated vehicle as an ambulance whenever someone was to be taken to a higher rural hospital. His wife and children accompanying him sacrificed normal life. Two of their kids went to the local primary school, the quality of education was extremely poor but they had no option. The third child was only 9 months old. This youngest daughter was often looked after by a 12 year old girl who lived next door, and helped Dr. Anil’s wife with her chores.

One day, Dr. Anil’s wife received a phone call. The lady caller who spoke in local dialect told her that this youngest 9 month old daughter was in her possession, and threatened to kill her if a certain amount was not paid immediately. By the time they could arrange anything, the infant was found dead by suffocation. The 12 years old girl who looked after the child was found dead in a local well after three days, a huge stone tied to her body.
The murderers were soon arrested: the lady confessed to the crime, assisted by her parents, for want of money.

All the three: the murderer lady and her family were being treated by Dr. Anil for over a year, as free patients.

Dr. Anil was transferred elsewhere, and decided to still continue serving the rural population. He has now joined a postgraduate course, but he wants to keep working in rural areas.

“No one cares about a doctor’s life, family or especially security. The situation is worst in the rural areas, where illiteracy, superstition, witchcraft, murders and rapes are commonplace. Local politics is at its worst” says Dr. Anil, “I was ready to sacrifice every pleasure in life to serve rural population, I even compelled my family to sacrifice, but I did not deserve this punishment. This pain is beyond description, sometimes I feel whether my decision to go to such unsafe place with family was correct. This bleeding curse kills me every moment”.

Thank you, those who keep saying that our society considers doctors ‘like Gods’!

While air conditioned hypocrites advise doctors to go and serve in the rural areas, no one will look at the big picture: there are no facilities, but worse, there is no security. You are left at the mercy of local criminals, often politicians.

Film stars, directors, politicians and many judges will never notice this kind of a story, just as they won’t ever comment about the sickest lowly traditions in their own individual profession. Communities ripe with rapists and murderers, and onlookers who film rapes or murders rather than trying to stop them, expect the best brains to work for their healthcare at meagre salaries.

There is nothing wrong with a short term bond for service in rural areas, but while signing such a bond or joining such areas, the doctors should also ask the government a written guarantee of security. This should be the part of the bond. If security can be provided to every TDH in politics, filmdom or to even the lowest ranks in the judiciary, even some criminals, it can definitely be extended to the doctors serving in rural areas. A doctor who feels threatened cannot work and in fact should not continue to work unless adequate security is provided to him / her and family.

Dr. Anil Dadarao Waghmare, you deserve the highest medal any doctor can ever get: because you showed this selfish society how big a doctor’s heart can be, by continuing to serve in rural India. From now on when the loudmouth foghorns in politics and administration try to malign our profession, or try to cover the gaping deficits in basic facilities at rural level by pointing fingers at the doctors, we can tell them your story.

As for the loss of your 9 month old daughter murdered by your own patient, I stand up in tearful, shameful regret of the state of affairs of Indian Rural Doctors.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS
It is high time the doctors unite to take a strong stand against aggressive attitudes of society, against stupid policies and being taken for granted and spoken against by uneducated loudmouths.

This story should reach every blabbering idiot who has no doctor in the family and keeps on expecting all doctors to be servants of this society. To those among doctors who try to impress faceless media or administrators by continually talking negative about our own colleagues, this story should serve as an eye opener.

Thank you, Dr. Anil Waghmare for the courage and permission to share this story.

Which Is The Best Festival Upon Earth?

Which Is The Best Festival Upon Earth?
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Happy Diwali” said Mr. Abdul as he entered with a box of sweets in the OPD.

Over five years ago he was admitted with a complete paralysis, and had fully recovered as he had reached the hospital within two hours of the onset of paralysis. Since then I had received his Diwali hampers without fail.

A happy gentleman who liked to make funny sarcastic comments (maybe Pune effect), he made me smile every time. “Your fees has increased, doctor, but my feelings of gratitude for you will not change” he said now, silently laughing: “Every Diwali I remember that I was admitted on the Laxmipooja day, and our family was worried if the specialist doctors will be available. My wife was praying that there should be some specialist doctor to attend my case all the way from home when I became unconscious” he recalled. Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Indeed, he was admitted on the auspicious festival day, the junior resident doctor had activated the stroke code, our team had rushed in. I was already in the hospital to see a VIP leader whose headache usually worsened on holidays and then many specialists had to be called in to ego-massage his headache. So I could see Mr. Abdul immediately, and explained to his family that his condition was critical, that there were risks of complications in the first few days. Uncertain with the new doctor, they requested that I talked to their family physician Dr. Feroz. I did.
This is but natural, and there was no reason to feel offended with the anxieties of a serious patient’s family. In the age of trustless relationships where couples check each other’s cellphones like detectives and parents and kids question each other’s intentions, it is hardly possible that a serious patient’s family will blindly trust a new doctor. Even some doctors distrust new (not senior / junior, but the one being consulted for the first time) doctors. The only possible solution is an understanding doctor who takes this in stride, refuses to be offended, and acts in the best interest of the patient, taking an extra step to make the worried family comfortable. There are indeed some who never trust anyone whatever one does to satisfy them, but that is their own cross to carry, one should simply ignore the ugly trait. It is well known that those patients who do not trust any doctor suffer worst, as they don’t take anyone’s advice seriously. Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Three days later, as Mr. Abdul recovered, the family breathed in some confidence, and started believing all that I explained, without having to involve their family physician. Since then, although I have advised that he does not require to see me now, and instead he can follow up with Dr. Feroz, Mr. Abdul visits me every six months for a check up. His wife calls me Rajabhai, a name I would not have allowed anyone to call me with, but couldn’t dare tell this to her!

This is a pretty standard picture across India, most of even the poorest recover well from strokes, accidents, burns, infections, fractures, heart attacks and various other emergencies if they reach hospital in time. While people all over the world wish happy festivities to each other, take holidays, revel and eat and enjoy, while leaders give long festive speeches from their farmhouses to please various voters according to mob IQs, it is the professionals like doctors and servicemen like police, military, etc.who slog and run to save lives. They forget family and enjoyment to be available for those who suffer. The perpetual thankless will immediately say “but this is a choice you made”, but not understand that this choice was made to be respected, to earn well and to save lives, not for the society, the skimpsters and politicians to take advantage of. To see the sick and crying, angry people, to witness death and disability on the very days that your family expects you to be happy with them is not something one can easily come to terms to, and this is lifelong, not a five year term with long vacations. Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The fact that millions of critical patients are attended well during the most auspicious festivals: Diwali, Eid, Christmas, and all other religious festivals included, is conveniently forgotten once the festivals are over, and then the mudslinging about medical professionals starts, with the long speeches advising doctors to work harder with lesser expectations. Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, this is not about Diwali or our religions” Mr. Abdul said while leaving, “this is to continue the tradition of humanity. There must be so many patients who can be with their families this festival, because some doctor worked hard to save them. This is my token of respect for those doctors”.

As always, I told Mr. Abdul that I was immensely grateful that the superpowers gave me this opportunity to be a doctor. I meant it. Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I often imagine: what if I was born with too much money, son of a rich father, with no worries for earning and no limits on spending, I would so much love to roam around the world in luxury cars and jets, among beautiful people (you understand), enjoying life to the brim, without caring for any suffering around me. In that case, I might have been very happy probably, but I won’t have respected myself as much. Even the most junior, newest recruit of a doctor is far superior to anyone who has chosen to cunningly ignore the suffering around, speaking big words and doing nothing about it.

Therein lies the best festivity in life: being a doctor, with an ability to abolish suffering and avert death.
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Happy Diwali to all Patients, Medical Students, Junior and Senior Doctors, Resident Doctors, Nurses, Technicians and wardboys, Hospital staff and administrators, and to everyone who cares for others, showing it in their actions.

Advise Doctors What To Do?

 

For the hypocrites who don’t do anything to correct their own profession (almost every profession has immense corruption), but think they have the right to criticise other professions. Criticising the most intellectual profession of doctors irrespective of one’s own credibility, effort, contribution, or even intellect, has become an ugly fashion.
Here’s the answer:
(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

22282081_1436304909798166_7961220724905147443_n

The Silent Murders and Medical Suffocation

The Silent Murders and Medical Suffocation
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Your grandfather is admitted and serious. Please come at once” my uncle said on the telephone.
I was in the first MBBS. This maternal grandfather was my closest relative after my father. An expert in many languages and philosophies, he was a constant source of love, wisdom and inspiration from my toddler days.

I submitted a leave application and travelled immediately to attend him. Grandpa was admitted in the general ward at the civil hospital Beed in Maharashtra. As the wards were full, he was kept with two other patients in a sort of a broad corridor, and IV antibiotics with saline were being given. He was delirious, but he managed to smile when he saw me. As civil hospitals do not have many medicines, my uncle arranged them from an outside pharmacy.

There was an elderly retired police inspector, Mr. Gaikwad, on the bed next to my Grandpa’s. He had uncontrolled sugar levels, and was slipping in and out of consciousness. His elderly wife was attending him, she was herself a patient of severe arthritis, and could not even get up or walk without excruciating pain. There were no chairs / stools or even mattresses for relatives attending the patients, so we slept on the floor besides our respective patients, upon our own bedsheets. I naturally attended the elderly couple too, I had enough time to attend humans as that was the pre cellphone era. Mrs. Gaikwad told me how her husband had spent his life without ever being corrupt, and said while she was proud that he was so clean, that also meant hardships like the one she faced. “Those who took bribes can afford to go to the private doctors in big cities and keep attendants. Our virtues translated in more hardships, the vocal rewards of words do not ease physical pain, nor pay any bills” she said with tears. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One night at about 3 AM, while I was deep asleep, I heard a scream and got up startled. Mr. Gaikwad was having a convulsion, and his wife shouted in panic. I ran to call the nurse, but there was only one for the entire ward and she was in the washroom. By the time she came out, the convulsion had stopped. She stopped the insulin drip and called the doctor on duty, who was asleep in the casualty. He came and administered some medicines and went away, exhausted. He was on duty for over three days in a row now, tired and irritable, yet had no option but to go on. I dozed off again. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In a few minutes, I realized Mrs. Gaikwad was waking me up again, shaking violently, because the IV needle of her husband had come out and he was bleeding. In panic I stood up. There was some water on the floor, and before I realized, I fell face down upon the bare floor. Such was the impact that my upper front tooth broke, and tore through my upper lip. It was bleeding profusely. The nurse had come and inserted another IV line to the patient by then, and the elderly lady felt quite guilty for my injury.

The nurse asked me to go to the casualty. The wardboy there refused at first to wake up the doctor on duty, saying he hadn’t slept for past two nights. However, as the bleeding continued, he took pity and woke up the doctor. Already angry, the casualty doc cleaned and sutured my lip with the available suture material, the correct one was not there. He asked me to get the painkillers and antibiotics from the pharmacy, and to fill up the necessary papers and pay the fees at the window.
With a swollen lip and an aching head, I returned to the ward and slept again. The next day, Grandpa was already feeling better, he could get a bed in a semi-private room, and discharged in two days after that.
Mr. Gaikwad, the elderly retired inspector passed away after two days, obviously a case of far less medical attention and facility. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I carry the scars till date.

Not much has changed in the civil / government run hospitals, even today. Far lesser beds and amenities, a constant lack of medicines and instruments, anarchic uncleanliness, underpaid and understaffed faculty, “sarkari” type procedural delays: overall a third-rate or worse experience in healthcare, with bribes and corruption at almost every level.
What is being projected is opposite though. The whole blame is being planted upon the medical professionals, and all the so-called reforms being made are just tightening of working conditions of the allopathic doctors. We do need reforms in medical malpractice and corruptions, and they are of course welcome, but many more thousand patients die due to apathy and lack of medicines and facilities at the government run hospitals than those who die due to medical malpractice. The number of administrators and government employees who do not attend government hospitals is a proof of the massive healthcare deficit we have everywhere in India. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Ambulances, thousands of more basic and specialty hospitals, more doctors, nurses, support staff in govt. run hospitals, better facilities and medicines are basic social requirements before any other development, advertisements or beautification is planned. However, the whole system appears to be concentrating upon the earning, eligibility and qualifications of existing allopaths.
MCI and IMA must also look into “Compulsory Basic Healthcare Facility and Patient Rights and Care” at all Civil / Govt. hospitals, specifying what the govt. must mandatorily implement in all its set-ups, what are the responsibilities of the administration. The overall (incorrect) notion that “All the problems in Indian Healthcare are because of the greed of Allopathic Doctors” is on the rise because of the “Govt. pleasing policies, comments and attitudes” by some. This will be extremely harmful in the long run. Progress can only be made in healthcare once the medical “Yes-Men” and “Yes-Women” are gone, once the voices that can boldly speak the truth are heard well.

Till then, the private practitioners must stay united in raising their voice against such “unilateral reforms” and defamation, or prepare to be forever suffocated by the system.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please share unedited.

The Babaji Doctors

The Babaji Doctors
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Today’s young doctors of today don’t know anything” the famous Senior Surgeon told her, smiling bitterly, “You have nothing wrong. Go home and take a pain killer, you will be fine tomorrow.”
The next day, at 2 AM in the morning, she was comatose, as my Neurosurgery professor in Mumbai prepared to operate her brain. She was found to have a huge tumor in her middle part of brain, that was about to kill her in few minutes.

This student, a girl aged about 21, came to me with a severe headache and mild imbalance. A senior physician was accompanying her as a local guardian, as her parents were in Mumbai. I had found that she had some warning signs, and told her to go for an urgent MRI. This is a standard protocol for any headache with neurological dysfunction. The accompanying physician told her in front of me “We will go and have a second opinion from the famous senior doctor. He is my friend”. I was not offended at all, this is the right of every patient. A senior doctor would definitely have better experience if not knowledge or specialty training. But I did feel sad about the ease with which this senior physician had underplayed my opinion. That he didn’t understand something did not give him a right to challenge it. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Next morning the girl messaged me that the F.S. doctor had told them “Nothing was wrong, that new doctors advised unnecessary tests, told her to take a painkiller and go to college next day.’

She went home and rested that night. The headache was a little less by morning, she texted me so. By afternoon, in the college, she started feeling drowsy and had a vomiting. Her local guardian physician asked her to travel to Mumbai to her parents and take rest. On the way to Mumbai by car she became unconscious. Her friend accompanying her called me (the F.S. did not pick up their call). I advised them to immediately contact my Neurosurgery professor in Mumbai for further help. I called him and informed so too. They reached Mumbai late evening. Her MRI showed a large brain tumor that was blocking the flow of fluids around the brain, and causing compression on the lower part of the brain. She was minutes away from death. My professor decided to operate her immediately.

Starting new practice, in the beginning weeks in India after three years of fellowships in Canada, I had far less patients, and more time to spend with each one. Very proud, I was also somewhere pleased by the brilliant competition I faced, and the fact that malicious bitterness was usually a certificate of good work. According to a saying, critics help one thrive. So long as I set my practice standards high and respected them myself, I wasn’t interested in any competition, nor feared any. Silence was the best weapon and I used it freely in many situations especially when refusing to be dragged in low level gossips and backbiting, not uncommon even in the medical world. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Say what you must. Make your point twice and move on. Don’t argue, because then you presume everyone is equally intellectual. The greatest rule of all is that truth will prevail.” Dr. Sorab Bhabha, my professor had taught me. I follow that to date, but I fail in the test of tolerance sometimes.

Many times, to impress the patient more than one’s competitor, some doctors resort to quite unfair and unethical means. To cunningly use patient’s dissatisfaction, reluctance and doubt about medical expenses and to say ‘immediately pleasing and gratifying’ things to make the patient happy is an art which some (senior and junior) doctors wisely incorporate into their practice.
“Don’t do surgery that the other doctor advised you, Those tests were all unnecessary, We will take a second opinion because I am not sure about this doctor, etc.” are the common tricks used. This gets them the instant faith of the unsuspecting frightened patient. This can then be gradually used to drive home the same advise as of the first doctor, but in different words that please the patient. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I am not against unnecessary sweet talking, although I don’t want to ever do that. Most doctors of my generation don’t believe in it. The patient must be told the truth compassionately, in the least hurting, non-frightening way, and any queries / doubts that may arise should be realistically addressed. Patients should be told the good and bad of every treatment option, and they should be encouraged to make informed decisions.

A doctor is a scientific, intellectual and compassionate service provider, and should refrain from being a pleasing-gratifying, patronizing or clownish entertainer at the cost of patient’s health by making compromised healthcare decisions, just to keep his/ her “Famous and beloved” status.

Some doctors also think of patients as their “personal property” and when they refer such patients to the specialist, they send a list of instructions and interfere with the specialist’s planned strategy. Some admit under their care patients who do not belong to their own specialty, then pay a good specialist for the correct diagnosis, and then google-treat the patients from standard treatment protocol sites (harmful, because the same treatment protocols do not apply to each patient). This unhealthy practice, mainly based on referral / cuts, will hopefully reduce with laws against cut practice.

Any intellectual will understand this: that with the vast expanse of medical field and research, no doctor can claim to “know it all”. One can only be proficient in one’s own specialty. Where a specialist is not available, or in emergency (this is the term most misused in such cases) one can use the best of one’s knowledge to treat the patient. Unfortunately, India is full of illiterate and poor (and also educated paranoid) patients who will only believe what is most financially suitable to them, will easily fall prey to the magical sweet talking abilities of a doctor, and blindly follow what is told, without ever knowing right or wrong. That is the reason of a rise in the “Babaji Doctors” in this country with so many Godmen in almost all religions! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

These medical equivalents of “Baba”s will have a benevolent smile, talk very reassuringly, speak only what the patients like to hear, and wisely try to convey that they know better than any other doctor, even the best specialists who have had excellent training in very specialized areas. Quite fortunately, younger generation patients are far wiser than to be affected by these pseudos: sweet talking without a reason is an immediate turn off for most intellectual young.

The hierarchy of education, qualification and specialised training is always superior to the hierarchy of experience. An MBBS passed out 50 years ago cannot be better than a MD passing out today. The ones with higher qualifications and training, even if far younger / junior, must be treated as above one’s expertise in their respective field. Yes, if the degrees and training are equal, then experience matters. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“ I don’t agree with your diagnosis, I don’t think that this patient has Parkinson’s disease” a senior surgeon once told me in front of a patient he had referred.
I know no one can be perfect, and I can be wrong. But I also know who is qualified to say that I am wrong.
“With all due respect, Sir, you are not qualified to comment in this specialty, just as I cannot challenge your diagnosis in yours” I replied. Age that does not match its behavior need not intimidate me, especially where a patient’s diagnosis is concerned. A doctor’s first duty is to tell the truth to his patient, and a part of that truth is what the doctor does not understand.

Pretending expertise in medicine may be fatal for a patient, no true blooded doctor can accept that.

As for the girl who was operated that midnight, she is now married and has two kids. She called a few months later to tell me she was doing well.

I continue to meet patients every other day, who have visited the F.S. doc, and tell me how he told everyone else was wrong.
Unfortunately, the only treatment in such cases is awareness.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Most doctors follow the ethics of not criticizing other doctors, which is required by the Medical Council. However only very few senior doctors have a heart big enough to welcome competition. This causes immense difficulty to the newer generations of specialists. Hence this article.
Please share unedited.

The Paragon of Courage (My Worst Night As a Doctor)

The Paragon of Courage
(My Worst Night As a Doctor)
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She is sinking. Unlikely to survive” said a doctor who had come for second opinion. The parents broke down. The father, a gentleman, held his speech as tears ran down his face, but the mother, like all mothers, could not hold her pain.
“Why Us? Is this all really happening? Why did we even do this procedure? I don’t know anything, doctor. I want my little girl back” she said, crying.

That was the worst night of my career as a Neurologist.
It was 2 AM. Dr. Anand Alurkar and myself waited on the road outside Ruby hall Clinic, Pune. We both felt extremely low, tearful. The loss of a life as a complication of treatment is the worst nightmare of a doctor. To save lives, a doctor must take courageous decisions, do the best thing for the patient. Every doctor, especially a surgeon, has to face this cruel dilemma: to not treat, let things be and leave the patient to nature’s rules and agonies, or try to save a life with the two inherent risks: a medical complication and the reality that such a complication may make the doctor an instant villain.

Three days prior, Tanushree, a 17 year old student from Manipur had gone to Pune airport to see off a friend. She suddenly fainted there and had a convulsion. Her friend brought her to my OPD. Her examination was normal, but she seemed quite aloof and had mild headache. An urgent MRI showed a bleeding in her brain. She had a bunch of abnormal blood vessels in the brain, which form a tangle. Some such blood vessels may bleed as they have thin wall, or when the pressure inside the bunch increases. In such cases the abnormal blood vessels are usually closed with a glue injected inside them. It is a standard, but very complicated procedure that requires skill and experience of years. I had called in Dr. Anand Alurkar, he had treated many such cases successfully. He opined that the girl would need such glue injection / embolization.

The procedure is risky (one must enter the brain’s blood vessels with a thin tube / catheter inserted from the leg), and other than the usual minor risks of any hospital procedure, the major risk here was a possibility of fresh bleeding in the brain, which happens in 1 percent of cases even if the procedure is correctly done. Such bleeding can even be life threatening.

Tanushree’s parents, Mr. Khuraijam RatanKumar Singh and Mrs. E. Meghabati Rani ji, were in Manipur. They arrived immediately. Mr. Khuraijam is a highly placed officer, and wanted to give her the best treatment options, they didn’t care about expenses.

We could understand that we were quite new as doctors for the family, and far away from their home, in a strange land. In view of recent bleeding in the brain, it would be risky for Tanushree to fly. We had all the necessary facilities. We explained the situation to them, including the risks. Her parents told us that they had complete faith in us. They signed the papers, consenting for the procedure. Tanushree was fully conscious, and had no complaints.

A brave teen, she went into the cathlab smiling, at 3 PM.

The procedure took over three hours, at @ 6 PM Dr. Anand confirmed that everything was done well, she was stable. She was shifted out to the ICU for observation. I saw her after the procedure, she smiled back. We went home for dinner. I planned to return to see her late night.

The nightmare began.
Just before I reached home, I got a call from the ICU team. “Tanushree complained of a severe headache, and then has become unconscious” said the panicked ICU doc.
“Get an urgent CT scan” I said as I took a U-turn. It was 9 PM.
The CT scan showed fresh bleeding.

That one major complication, known to happen in extremely rare cases despite all precautions, had happened in this 17 year old teen. The bleeding was substantial. Dr. Anand came rushing back too. We started all the emergency treatments for reducing the swelling on her brain. The parents, lost and broken, supported each other. Her mother was upset with the whole thing, and felt guilty that they had consented for the procedure. I understood her feelings, but was helpless. I knew how my mother would have reacted, and this was not different. We now prayed that Tanushree improved, and desperately hoped that her brain swelling reduced. But things went worse.

At @ 4 AM her brain swelling started to cause pressure effect on the brainstem: the area that controls heart, breathing and blood pressure. Once that area fails, the patient is unlikely to survive. She became almost comatose. In an unfortunate twist, a doctor called in for a second opinion told that parents that there were no chances of survival. The parents lost it.

I discussed with Dr. Anand. We were not willing to give up. There was a very small chance of her survival, if her skull was opened to relieve the pressure effect of the bleeding on the brainstem. But this is a major surgery, and has more risk than the earlier procedure. We explained the situation to the parents. Her mother was disturbed beyond decision making. Her father told me: “Do what you think is the best. I will leave it upto you”.

Once again, I had to risk her life in an attempt to save it. Only a doctor would understand the full implication of these words.
I called our senior neurosurgery expert, Dr. Ashok Bhanage. He arranged for an emergency surgery within a few minutes. He spoke to the parents, explained that there is risk of death even during surgery, and took her in. I waited with the parents in the waiting room.

“Save her, I beg of you” I kept telling my God.

After three hours, she was wheeled out to the recovery room, on a ventilator. In two days, the ventilator was taken off. She had developed paralysis of the right half of her body, and lost speech. In a week, she started speaking a few words. In a month, she started walking and regained almost complete speech, but her memory was still not well. She was stable. I thanked Dr. Bhanage for his timely response. Accepting the risks, he had turned the game over.

Every doctor has to play every day with these fears: of mistakes, of complications, which will ruin his / her career within moments. It is a stress beyond description, and amplified in case of surgeons. The more aggressive and distrustful the relatives or the patient, the more difficult the decision making, the higher the risk of a decision in favour of avoiding risk, even if life saving.

On the day of her discharge, Tanushree’s father and mother became emotional, and thanked our team with beautiful, heartfelt words. Her father also gifted me a Reid and Taylor suit fabric, which I will pass on to my son as my precious treasure.

In a year, Tanushree recovered nearly completely, and joined back her college. She went to London to explore possibilities of further education, and now has chosen to pursue law. In spite of some mild effects that the event has left upon her, she continues to be brave and bold, and takes on any challenge with the grit of one who has already defeated death.

When she followed up yesterday, she was smiling as brightly as she ever does! “Sir, I am sure I can defeat any problem in my life now, after what I have overcome” she told me.

Her father told me: “You are God for us”. As much as I love and respect those undeserved words, I am keenly aware that there is only one God that looks after both: the patient and the doctor.

I cringed at the thought: “What if, out of fear that night, I had decided not to advise her that second surgery?” I will never forget that being a doctor I am also assigned this extra responsibility: to take the best decisions fearlessly for my patients, to explain them well to the family, and to hope for the best.

I was lucky that my prayers were answered, and I learnt that my God also meets me in the life of my patients.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS:
Thank you, Ms. Tanushree Khuraijam, Mr. Khuraijam RatanKumar Singh, and Mrs. E. Meghabati Devi Ji, for the permission to share this story.

There must be far better doctors and teams in India and abroad, I am sure. This article is to highlight the plight of what a doctor feels when things go wrong, and to tell the world about the exemplary courage of a teen.

Doctor’s Fees: A Taboo Topic

Doctor’s Fees: A Taboo Topic
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
A famous industrialist from Pune recently visited my OPD. My Boss called me on phone and told me to waive off the fees, as he was a close friend of my Boss. The industrialist was not only well behaved, but well-read too. He had a complicated problem, had seen Neurologists etc. in India and UK. He asked many questions, and I was happy to have been able to reply to most. The consultation lasted over 45 minutes. He went out, and was told by the receptionist that his fees was waived off. He knocked my door, came back in, and placed three thousand rupees on my table. My usual fees is half that.
“Doc, I don’t believe in taking advantage. You gave me all the time I needed, and I have paid far more to the foreign doctors for a fraction of that time” he said.
 
Just a few days prior, a European patient from Mumbai had visited with her Indian in-laws, and after a detailed consultation, when they went out and paid the usual fees of 1500 INR, she messaged me: that this was far lower for the service they received. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Two days ago, on Saturday night at 9 PM, one lady rushed in without appointment, an engineer now working in Pune. Quite lavish in her get up and paraphernalia, she told me she had recently delivered a baby in the USA and then returned to India. After we finished the consultation that lasted over 30 minutes, and included many questions and explanations about her “minor” neurological problem, about justification of diagnosis, every medicine, about lactation, and about her prior medical consultations, I was happy that I had answered all her questions, and was able to treat her without any tests. Then she said: “And yes, doc, your fees is too high. Most doctors in my area charge less than that. I want concession”.
 
Earlier it was quite embarrassing for me to discuss money with patients. I felt it was below my dignity to have to talk about money, and humiliating to have to explain my fees. When I decided what I charged, it was after a prolonged thought process, and awareness of Indian healthcare scenario and socioeconomic conditions. While being available for genuinely poor patients, I did not want to resort to any backdoor incomes, and also wanted to give every patient the best of my skill acquired over 15 years of education, and enough time. There are clean doctors, far more senior than me, in my branch, who know this well and charge a lot more as consultation fees than I do (some over 5000 INR for a single consult), for they know their own worth. But there also are few who for their own reasons continue to charge far lesser, some with a noble intention (usually at the fag end of their career), some with alternative plans. It is a personal preference of the doctor, especially specialist. A correct diagnosis and honest /right advise is becoming rare and rare, what with the quality of medical education and an admixture of streams, which aim at the fast, cheap, objective and basic rather than specialized, subjective and accurate. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
In absence of any comparable example, (medical service is not comparable to any other, but to quote an example that most should understand), I have to mention this: when one buys land, home, good food or technology, one pays differently at different places, for different brands. No one argues about the rates of foreign cellphones or jewelry, even about cinema tickets, but the most important service of all: health, is considered a bargainable, perpetually low cost charity. Basic and emergency healthcare doesn’t mean attached super-technology, five star rooms and washrooms and air conditioning, best qualified staff and ancillary services. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Used to this question very frequently, I told this lady that my fees was the same as that of most super-specialists in larger cities, that it was based upon qualification, experience, skill and time spent. She wouldn’t listen, and refused to pay. I told her she could avail of the free OPD meant for poor patients if she had a BPL card or if she was a farmer. “I can afford, I am not poor. But I want concession, because some doctors in my area charge only XXX”she said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
A senior doctor had advised me during the beginning of my practice: “Concentrate on the affordability of the middle class. Manage your time with the patient according to their affordability, people are rarely willing to pay the doctor. If your consultation fees is high, you will turn off many patients, because even the rich opt for the cheapest possible healthcare, including the doctor”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Of course I did not want to discriminate. But over a period of time I realized that most of the forced free categories keep on repeatedly visiting various specialists / hospitals (a free category patient visits over three consultants for every medical issue) because it is free/ low cost, this is a frustrating scenario. Even the affording class visits many specialists for the same problem because the doctor’s fees is too ‘affordable’.
 
A doctor must always be kind and compassionate, but in India, he / she also needs to be practical to avoid being exploited. Compare to the availability of a free food service at your home for the poor. Check out for yourself how many misuse it, and how often. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Various pathies and specialties have a different fees structure, and people must be educated that all doctors cannot charge the same. A surgeon or physician with more skill, experience, expertise and good outcomes is definitely entitled to charge more than his peers. After all, what is a few thousand rupees when one’s health is concerned? When filing suits against doctors who commit mistakes, people claim in crores, a fact that must be accounted for when the doctor charges his / her fees.
 
“Your fees has increased” said a patient, who has paid the same fees for last 8 years. When I asked him to name any commodity whose price hasn’t increased in last eight years, he said “But you are a doctor”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Among all the inflations happening everywhere, it is only the doctor’s fees that mostly remains unchanged for years. There are excellent charity institutes with great healthcare services , also many government hospitals, but most people want a “Premium / Priority” healthcare service at their lowest rates, refusing to stand in a queue at such hospitals. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
The cut throat competition among hospitals to match society’s low cost healthcare expectations has resulted in a nightmare: most of the permanent staff being hired is low-salary, low qualification overworked, and exploited, many of the consumables used are of a questionable quality. This reflects worst in most critical care units and some surgical units. Very few will understand the true depth of this horrible tragedy.
 
While all cut-practice and other malpractices must end, while every doctor must compassionately aim at resolving the health problem that the patient trusts him / her with, and satisfy the patient as much as possible, it is also necessary that people understand that good healthcare will come at a higher cost. No doctor should refuse emergency /basic treatment to a patient who really cannot afford. Other than this, “Cheaper Doctors are the kindest and the best” is a devastating superstition we must eradicate.
 
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Please share unedited.

The Overdose of Medical Advice

The Overdose of Medical Advice
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“If the doctors want to go to a five star hotel, they must pay for it” said someone recently in a headline.
Well yes, like any hardworking honest professional, even a doctor may want to go to a five star hotel occasionally, and have a good time, especially given the sadness that surrounds his / her profession. There is nothing that prevents me as a doctor from wanting to go to a five star hotel once in a while, and I do not feel guilty about wanting to live a good life. Earlier, I was happy to attend some great lectures by the world’s best doctors brought to India by the pharma industry (because the government never can), now I will just pay for myself.
Whether a five star meal comes from the profit of pharma industry or the hard work of doctor’s fees, there will be objections for sure. The problem is not the five star meal, the problem is elsewhere. So the different ministries can officially host super luxurious parties on different religious / non religious occasions to woo voters via the taxpayer’s money (and the media will describe the Biryanis and Gulab Jamuns in paragraphs), but the doctor must never eat a free luxury meal!
Many non medical professions, industries, financiers, film industry people, bankers and builders host dinners / other events at five star hotels, and many government officers / ministers attend them. Do they all pay for themselves? Just because a minister attends a five star dinner, he cannot be presumed to be doing a hidden favour to some industry, likewise, a doctor attending an academic event cannot be presumed to be doing a favour to any pharma. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It is doubtless that some doctors may have misused this facility and overspent. But the huge advantage: giants in the different medical fields from the developed world coming and educating the doctors in India will be greatly sacrificed by such limitations.
Given the social envy and jealousy against the doctors now rampant, it is probably an inevitable but unfair step by some organisations recently to ban pharma sponsorship of certain medical events at five star hotels. It is also a good initiative to reduce drug prices. But then, can the same organisations and even the federal bodies show the same guts and ban following malpractices too:
Open sale of undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats all over India, that creates funds worth trillions, benefitting even some in the highest offices of the country? Where does this money come from, and where does it finally go? Are we innocent enough to presume that the patient is not ultimately paying for this? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Under the medical consumer protection act, is not the government required to make all the facilities of healthcare available at all government hospitals in our country at subsidised rates? It is argued that taxpayers are paying for the education of medical students who enter medical colleges by merit, which is wrong, because the taxpayers are actually paying for good health facilities at the said hospitals. But most of the hospitals / medical centres run by the government are understaffed and run far below acceptable conditions. How many government health set ups have been evaluated for accreditation by standard bodies, and what are the results?
The insurance companies and corporate hospitals have held the private doctors prisoners of their atrocious conditions, and even the paying patients are being provided a substandard service, thanks to a total absence of any willingness to question any of this on the part of administration.
The demand and supply of “Cheap everything” in medical profession has now gone to such a dangerous extent, that substandard staff, incompletely qualified professionals, low rate medical instrumentation and quality of service, and above all, ineffective / low quality medicines have become a horrific reality already, even at some corporate hospitals dominated and dictated by the insurance sector.
They are giving people what they want: Glittering Cheap Healthcare. It is so surprising that the patients are happy with only this one quality of service and drugs: cheapness. The day that our society will understand that like anything else, good healthcare will cost more and will obviously involve more profit-making, our health scenario will improve. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The IMA, while trying to play safe and readily making rules like banning sponsorship, should take a firm stand to fight against the one sided war waged upon the medical profession by some.
Written in a state of perfect peace, not frustration.
Because I am not sold out to the desire to be liked by everyone, especially those against doctors.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande