Tag Archives: Life

Medical Profession and Charity:  A Guideline For Medical Students (Speech at a recent Medical Event)

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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My dear friends, you will receive many sermons about your responsibility to do charity and social service from those who do no charity themselves. Many who have never done anything worthwhile for the society will remind you of your Hippocratic oath. Beware of these distractors, your social service and charity is your own choice. Thousands of doctors who chose to settle down in the remote place, purely with an intention to serve people, and carried on general practice for over 50 years are now dependent upon someone helping them for their own medical treatment. Neither the government, nor those whom we help reciprocate. Those who lecture doctors about serving the society never answer this simple question: what if a doctor serving the society very well, needs help? Who will help him? The answer is clear. First safeguard your career, reputation, family, home, parents, future and then do charity like a king, confidently, freely and with pride. Professional goals are not the same for everyone.
Some base the entire concept of charity on the low fees, without any analysis of the quality of medical care provided and the outcomes. A patient treated free but wrong, a patient treated at a low cost with a poor outcome cannot be considered charity. “Self-Declaration” of numbers of such patients treated without an analysis of outcomes and patient feedback is nothing but cheap hidden advertisements.
All of us don’t come from the same background: Some families have lived in perpetual poverty, selling off land and compromising quality of housing, clothes and even food to send their children through the medical education. Some must repay their loans, some must attend too many family duties and some just struggle to survive with a middleclass lifestyle. The first thing that we must overcome while doing any charity or social service is the feeling that those who are unable to do it are somehow lesser to us. That discrimination must go. A doctor doing his / her job well is enough charity, they have sacrificed their youth for the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Let us look at the career options most Indian doctors have.
Medical teachers have already accepted a very low salary compared to what they truly deserve, The average salary of a medical professor in USA and UK exceeds INR 8 lacs per month, working 8 AM-4 PM, with one emergency per week. Although I do not contribute to the school of thought that one must accept the low Indian financial status, at one-fourth salary per month, our medical teachers work three times more than the doctors in the developed world (because in India the staff is never filled adequately) . Still they continue to put in their blood and sweat, training thousands of medical students, working almost 24/7, seeing far more number of patients in OPD, IPD and Emergency. This is the best possible medical social service, nay, charity being done in India, let me first respect and salute this unrecognized social service. This is an ideal premise for those who want to continue to be available for the poor masses, keep themselves abreast of the most modern medical knowledge, and impart it to the meritorious future generations of doctors.
A similar career is working as medical officers in rural / semi-rural areas, where doctors are most deficient. In most Medical Institutes run by the government or municipal corporations, sycophancy and suppression , hopeless bosses, poor administration and heavy paperwork, punishment transfers and bribery are huge limitations for those who want to honestly serve patients. Life isn’t easy in rural surroundings. Right from the lack of basic amenities like water, electricity, good schooling and transport, to a severe threat to personal security by the rampant Political Gunda culture in a superstitious, orthodox community. Who will want to voluntarily expose their family to these? However, if one does have a social standing in one’s homeland, it becomes an excellent option to serve the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Coming to the non-government career options in medicine, one is either left to private practice as an individual practitioner, which offers a lot of freedom but limited resources, or a salaried practitioner at a corporate hospital.
In the corporate hospital culture, individual charity and social service becomes almost impossible. Contrary to the image created by the media, most of the corporate hospitals actually comply with the mandatory charity, worth crores of rupees every month to those BPL, but the need of our society is far more than that, the demands are never ending. The new doctor who wants to earn a good name and income, but also wants to do something worthwhile for the society as a free service, the corporate culture offers two options: a low-salaried position for looking after the mandatory charity, or working in their low input peripheral schemes. For a beginner, especially a specialist, these are both excellent options . © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Coming to the last option: an individual private practitioner, there are many choices but also a stark reality: you are on your own, and on the day that you don’t earn, no one else pays for your innumerable bills. Remember that when you are an independent medical practitioner, you have zero income every day that you don’t work, so a single illness or problem that keeps you home for a month will bring your bank balance to zero. Unless there is an alternative source of income, which is rarely the case with a doctor, this jeopardizes your whole existence. You may be prepared to walk through this, but you will be doing your family a great injustice if you push them into this fate. Look at those who have done the greatest charity upon earth: Bill Gates, JK Rowling etc. They have first earned, secured themselves and their dependents and then returned in plenty to the world. That is the safest way to serve the society effectively and for long.
I know almost everyone in this hall is eager to help the downtrodden, poor and helpless. But there are some things you must first thrash out for yourself. Firstly, do not feel any obligation to copy charity. You can discover your own new ways to serve the needy. Completely ignore those who tell you what should be your financial worth. Once you decide what lifestyle you want, you can chart out how much percentage of your time you can work for charity. You may want to reserve one hour a day or one day every week. Be comfortable, choose what does not become a stress factor, but please stick to whatever you decide.
One hour a day by an Indian doctor means 4-5 free patients a day, that is 30 patients a week, that is 120 patients per month, and 1440 per year. If one consultation is 300 rupees, this way you are giving 4 lac 32 thousand rupees worth service free to the society.
There is a major problem : those who take advantage of free medical service. There already are many affording patients whom most doctors voluntarily see free: relatives, teachers, other doctors and their family, classmates, staff in their hospitals, maids and servants, watchmen, neighbors etc.. There are also others who demand free consultations: administrators, politicos, local heavyweights, ministers and even top businessmen who our bosses accompany. People often say that free service does not have any value, it is not respected, but I will make a small exception here: I feel that the really poor and helpless genuinely respect your free service, remember it for life and place you near God. It is the affluent who are usually thankless for free services, and it is high time that we should stop serving them free, so that we are able to serve the really deserving ones. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
False poverty/ income certificates, visiting repeatedly for trivial / tiny complaints, daily questioning, become a huge limitation in extending free services openly. Pune teaches you many tricks to identify and deal with such people.
An equal legal responsibility for even the free patients is the law, and a major limiting factor for private practitioners as well as corporates. However careful one may be, every doctor does commit mistakes, and our courts of law are yet unevolved medically, only rare judges are mature enough to understand the intricacies of medical decision making and still rarer doctors understand the law. Look at the big picture: a doctor is treating a poor patient as charity, and unfortunately something goes wrong. The instant conclusion that it was the doctor’s mistake, the sensational news story that follows, and the threat to personal reputation all come to play together. The chance of “Extracting” money from the hospital or the doctor, in case of any complication or death, is considered a lucrative opportunity by many local goons.
A poor young lady with a stroke presented to my free OPD. I found her to have a valvular heart disease with a clot in the heart. We arranged for her free treatment, the best cardiac team in the city operated her free, for a major valve replacement open heart surgery. Everything including all complications was explained, poof on paper. In a month, she developed valve failure, a rare but known complication. The relatives returned with a gang of goons, threatened us in the OPD with dire consequences and legal action. The very family which begged for concessions with folded hands a month ago now spoke of vandalizing the hospital, beating us up. We explained to the patient and family that this is not a surgical mistake, that this is a rare but known complication, and it was still possible to correct it. Fortunately for us, the patient herself agreed for a redo surgery. The cardiac team operated her again, free, and the patient went home walking in a few days, but no one from the family ever expressed any gratitude. We had learnt a precious lesson: do not risk your career for charity or social service, because medical degrees, once cancelled or suspended are almost impossible to get back. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
My friends, the real richness is that of the soul, and by becoming a Doctor you have already proven all that you need to prove about your soul. Whatever I must earn, I must proudly earn without causing hurt or having to deceive anyone. And believe me, Lord has provided enough for me always. Yes, there was a time when I sat in my hostel room and sung that song “Chaand Taare Ttod Laoon” from Yes Boss . Over the years, the kind Lord has responded to most of my prayers. There is no other profession in which you have such huge opportunity: your charity and service will bring people health and life: so use it freely, every day, always. Just make sure to protect yourself to help others for decades to come, and to pass on this light to the future generations.
Jai Hind!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Nightmare

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“Wake Up! Wake Up!!!” shouted the wife frantically. The husband did not respond.
We told her to remain calm.
“How can you tell me to remain calm, doctor? Are you insane? Do something.. he is dying. What will I do without him? I have a two small kids… I beg of you, doctor! Here, I touch your feet! Please save my husband!” the lady kept shouting, panic-struck.

Her husband was riding a bike with a friend just an hour ago, and was dashed by a high-speed truck. The friend had died on the spot, and this gentleman had suffered a head trauma, with fractures in the bones of one hand and both legs. He was unconscious since admission. We had sutured his wounds, the bleeding was controlled, but he had already lost a lot of blood and his blood pressure was low. He was receiving blood transfusion now. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I was an intern then, at the civil hospital Nanded. Our Surgery medical officer had examined the patient, and suspected a bleeding in the skull / brain. There was no CT scan or Intensive care facility available, and the nearest city with a CT scan or ICU was Hyderabad, some seven hours away. The wife decided to shift him to Hyderabad. The MO told them that travel involved risks, the patient could worsen. He also suggested that he must not travel without an accompanying doctor.

“Please come with us” the wife requested me with folded hands. I convinced another intern friend to join me. That was at about midnight, the month was December. Very cold.

We prepared the emergency kit, including various injectables, tubes and Ambu bag required in case the breathing stops. We started in a basic “Ambulance”, with a reluctant driver motivated by the obvious. The night was as chilly and dark as it could be, the road bumpy and dusty, and the ambulance, except that there was a patient and two doctors in it, had nothing else to qualify as an ambulance. The only positive thing about it was its speed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient mumbled something and became drowsy again. We requested the wife to please not be affected by such fluctuations, common in patients with head injury. We kept on measuring the blood pressure and pulse rate manually (there were no monitors then). We also kept a watch on his pupil size, as unequal pupils are a hint for swelling or bleeding in the brain. An hour into the journey, the patient had a convulsion. We had already given him an anticonvulsant, a standard protocol, but now we also had to give him diazepam to abort the fit. The fit stopped, but the blood pressure started dropping. We used steroid injections and increased the intravenous fluids. The use of diazepam may depress breathing, but we had no choice here. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient’s wife had bouts of extreme panic and kept weeping. Her suffering was justified, we tried not to let that affect our decisions. Two other relatives who accompanied her tried to console her. A doctor cannot run away from or avoid any situation, we were learning our lessons.

By 2 AM, the patient appeared relatively stable. The relatives slept off, the wife became silent, occasionally dozing off. I’m a nocturnal animal, but my friend was feeling very sleepy.

At about 3 AM, the ambulance suddenly stopped.
“I cannot drive anymore. I am tired and very sleepy. I need to have a tea and a smoke, otherwise I will fall asleep driving” the driver said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
There was no choice. We saw the small tea stall by the roadside. The relatives and patient’s wife had tea, my friend intern went out and had his cigarette and tea, then he sat with the patient while I had my smoke and tea. It was only after we started again that we realized how vital it was to have taken that break! The ambulance gained speed steadily.

An hour later, the patient became quite rowdy, and started to violently throw about his hands and legs, trying to get up. We tried to restrain him, but it became quite difficult, especially because the ambulance was running high speed, and the wife was now almost in a state of shock. We had to use diazepam again. His breathing became shallow, pulse rate started rising. We prepared for artificial ventilation.

As we approached the city by the dawn, the traffic increased, and we faced many blocks. We reached CDR Apollo hospital, just as we intubated the patient and started ventilating him with the Ambu bag. Dr. Raja Reddy, Neurosurgeon there, immediately attended the patient and himself accompanied us to the CT scan room. The scan showed some contusions / injuries to the brain, but no major bleeding. Dr. Reddy reassured the patient’s family, and praised the efforts we had made, being interns. Patient was taken to the ICU.

We returned by an ST bus the same afternoon, after thanking the ambulance driver. Few days later the patient was back on duty, completely recovered. One evening when I returned from the hospital, my parents showed me a beautiful thick gold necklace.

“That couple had come. They wanted to thank you, they gifted this for your son” my mother proudly said. Although my one month son did not know anything about gold, and I do not understand metallurgy well, my parents indeed had very proud smiles for the next few days. The glitter of those smiles is the only Gold I have preserved in life, like many doctors who go through this ordeal every day!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to hundreds of doctors who carry/ transfer patients in horrible situations / conditions, risking their own life, all across India.

PS: This is a story circa 1993, the management standards and guidelines, facilities have improved a lot today. Of Course smoking is a bad habit and not justified.
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The Deadly ‘Vegetable’

The Deadly ‘Vegetable’

“How is my mother, Doctor?” The smiling politician, a tower of patience, surrounded by his impatient bouncer cronies, and a drooling doctor, asked me at the door of the critical care unit.

I examined the patient, a case of a large bleeding that had caused severe damage in the brain. Inputs were whispered in my ears by the cautious doctors of the unit. The poor lady had been treated by many excellent doctors in Mumbai and Delhi, as the family of that politico had that free facility. However, she had stopped the blood pressure medicines as some “Herbal Baba” had criticized them on National TV. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She is conscious, but cannot understand or respond at all. Her heart is beating well, blood pressure is holding up, and her breathing is fine too. She can move her hands and legs, but it all appears meaningless movement. This may last for weeks or months, and in some cases, even permanently”.

The ‘doctor’ with that group authoritatively asked “That means she is a vegetable now?”.

“The correct word is ‘Vegetative’, the medical condition is called ‘Persistent Vegetative State’, and I cannot say as of now if this will be persistant. There are some chances of recovery” I replied with a carefully acquired masked face.

“Is there anything we can do anywhere in the world to make her brain normal again? I can take her to the best centers in the world” said the Politico. The drooling doc came forward again. His desperation to be significant was almost killing him. “Are there any medicines that can make her recover faster? We can afford anything” he asked.

I knew the exact words to reply him with.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“No Sir. Just as you cannot shorten the period of pregnancy, you cannot convert it to three months in the best of the hospitals , however rich you may be, the recovery of brain happens at its own speed. The medicines that can help her are already on”. This usually stops further discussion in that line, it did.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I went to the cafeteria to cool down. I couldn’t understand whether it was the tail-wagging doctor or the politico with ‘everything exists to serve me’ attitude that irritated me more. A cyclone of the big picture started rising in my mind.

The state of our “Government run” healthcare, is more or less the same: Vegetative. Big plans, big declarations, more investment, more land and buildings, more equipment, all surfaces, especially during elections. But the brain: good doctors in the system: is dead. No good healthcare system can be created or run by those appointed without merit, without quality. Thousands of huge set-ups declared and erected by the various governments are lying vacant, or serving far below their purpose because there are no good doctors/ technicians in most. The last battalion holding the flag of good healthcare: good medical teachers in medical college are on the verge of extinction. Best of the government-run hospitals and services are often reserved for those in power and their families. The shameless orders for “reserving ICU beds and ventilators, operation theaters etc.” for a patient known to a politician are a daily affair, they least care if someone else without an influence dies.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Appointments of drooling, medal-hungry shoelickers on various key medical posts has crippled the system. The real poor and deserving are thrown from one window to another to submit documents and applications to claim the benefits that they deserve.

The whole blame of a this deadly “Vegetable” healthcare is cunningly shifted upon those who refuse to work as ‘personal servants’ to the government, those who go into private practice, and private hospitals. Now almost all doctors complete their bonds, yet there is a gaping hole in the system that cannot retain specialists for long. Only the compromised, beginners, and failures stay for long in adverse, sycophancy based, low-cost environments. The very politicians who say “Don’t worry about money” when asking treatments for their own family, accuse the doctors of being “greedy”, when they leave govt. services.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The simple solution, the recovery of the brain, i.e induction and retaining of good, meritorious, non-shoe-licking and highly qualified specialists in the government-run healthcare departments and set-ups will probably change this scenario. But this looks impossible, now that even many doctor’s organisations have started losing their autonomy, self respect, to fall in line with the glorified slogans and to lick the bottoms of those who run such failed healthcare systems. The addictions to blow up any tiny good news, modify data to appease masses, hide the blaring failures, deficits and corruption in the healthcare have become a norm, and even our society seems to be ecstatically happy to just hear loud speeches of big plans rather than facing ground realities.

Indian Healthcare run by various governments, except for very few honourable exceptions, has become a brainless “Persistent Vegetative Healthcare System”. A ‘deadly vegetable’, for the understanding of the drooling docs. Unless someone sane and responsible in healthcare department acts quickly, we will lose this healthcare battle.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: During the writing of this article I received over 20 phone calls from patients, and 12 of them dropped, cut, hanged. This is our technical progress. Before we send men in space, can we deal with this?

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Illegal Heroes

Illegal Heroes

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I was at the disco last night. We danced a lot, I exceeded my ususal capacity of 180 ml alcohol, and had two or three large pegs extra. I must have smoked a little extra too yesterday, I was too stressed”’ said the 30 year old man, who was admitted one afternoon in an unconscious state. He had had a fit in the office that morning. The MRI had shown a large bleeding / haemorrhage in his brain. This illness, cerebral venous thrombosis, is quite common among those who are dehydrated, those who have untreated sinus infections, and among those who take contraceptive pills. If not treated in time, it can quickly cause brain swelling that may lead to disability or death.

Over next three days he gradually improved. Brain swelling started to recede, and he asked for a discharge. Faster and to-the-point care had improved his condition, thanks to modern healthcare. A psychiatrist had already counselled him about deaddiction. When we sent his file for discharge, his mediclaim insurance was declined because this illness was related to alcohol consumption. Immediately, his tone became bitter, his colleagues dissected the case papers asking for justification of each test, each medicine, and also why he was even hospitalised. Gratefulness is often waived off by doctors as a lost quality among saved patients, but it is difficult to tolerate arrogant distrust. We firmly explained him what was done and why.

“We will pay your bills, we will claim the insurance later, but you must change your notes, remove alcohol and smoking from his papers” said the patient’s brother.

“We cannot change the case notes, it is illegal. Also, we have already sent copies to the insurance company, a standard procedure. You are not obliging us by paying the bills, we have provided healthcare service that saved your brother, who was about to die due to alcohol consumption” we replied.

Within an hour, a local politician, an elected member, who came in his Range Rover with his personal armed bodyguards and human doggies, started his anti-medical show that had drama, emotion, tragedy, threats of violence and revenge and everything else but truth and honesty. He spoiled the day for everyone involved, caused disruption of hospital work for over six hours, and left with a threat of “burning down the hospital soon”. When our PRO asked him whether he wants to pay the bills of this patient to help them, his reaction was the hallmark of a true politician: change of topic to how the medical profession has lost its reputation.

Almost every doctor, every hospital in India is being threatened and pressurised by our own lawmakers at almost all levels into changing facts, writing false details, extorting concessions for the rich and poor both, only to increase their own vote banks at the cost of the healthcare industry. Most politicians, many government officers instead of financially helping the patient, ask the hospital to treat free or cut off bills.

How legal is this authority? If a politician writes to a court or lawyer or hotel or an Airline to waive off fees/ bills of a poor person, will they ever? Why are the doctor’s services and hospitals taken for granted here? How sad that such illegal means make pseudo-Heroes in our country!

Everytime the politicos pressurise a doctor or a hospital to treat their paying cronies free or concessional, some other truly deserving patient suffers because hospitals, small or big, can only do a certain level of charity. How fair is it to deny healthcare to the deserving poor just because they cannot flex a political muscle? This phenomenon is ruining the whole purpose and concept of charity healthcare measures all over India.

Aren’t these elected members responsible for the disgusting state of the civil and government hospitals and healthcare all over India? That is their domain of authority. This is like messing up one’s own home and family and requesting the one with a better home and family to pay and comply for one’s own needs. How shameful is it for the elected members of different parties to have to send people, especially the poor, to the private hospitals, because their own set-ups are failing perpetually? Empty posts, inadequate staff, poorest funding, non-availability of quality technology and medicines and red tapism have created massive monuments of the healthcare failures of different lawmakers all over India, and these are the very people who come threatening to the hospitals of burning them down! Hear this, any Milord?

If the honourable Prime Minister and Health Minister invite feedback from every patient leaving every civil and government hospital, the gravity of this situation will be understood better. Many repairs “at home” are required before “the neighbours home” is raided. We as doctors and hospitals must together request these authorities and offices to protect us from such daily insults, extortions and exploitation.

The very next day, an old man, a retired Indian Military officer, was expressing himself in the OPD with tears in his eyes: “Ye desh ka kuchh nahi honewala (This country cannot progress). People here, at all levels, want corruption, legal escapes to save money, and will elect anyone who throws them petty bits. Votes are bought for such favours as alcohol, gifts and cash. Sycophants rule, criminals are seen hand in hand with some rulers. Who do you think will get elected with such means, saints? You can guess what progress we expect if the lawmakers are first in line to break laws..”

There was nothing more sinister I heard that day. I am worried about the healthcare in my beloved country. God save the future generations from such illegal heroes!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Greater Squint

The Greater Squint

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why didn’t the doctor tell us? Is it allowed for the doctors to hide such information? I will sue him” the angry mother kept shouting as she cried. Her husband told her to calm down.

“I know the other doctor well, I will talk with him today. He must have his reasons” I replied.

“No doctor, we don’t want you to talk to him about this” said the father.

Their fifteen year old brilliant daughter had developed mild headache and occasional giddiness. They had first read blogs about these symptoms, and after trying out various “natural” remedies and lifestyle changes, visited their family physician. He had started with the routine medicines for headache, and advised them to visit a specialist if the symptoms persisted for a week. As the headache didn’t subside, they visited a specialist. His notes indicated a normal neurological examination, and some higher medicines for headaches and giddiness. After a week, the girl developed a squint, double vision and slurred speech suddenly, and was unable to walk. She was brought to our emergency, her MRI of the brain showed multiple sites of infection including the lower part of the brain. Although most infections are treatable, those in the lower part of the brain (called brainstem) are extremely dangerous, and can cause even coma or death. This part has all the vital centers of the body, controlling heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When I explained this and advised admission for further treatment, they had panicked. That is when the mother had lashed out at the earlier doctors.

After admitting the child, the father came back.

“Doctor, I must make a confession. My wife is quite anxious, and she was crying when we saw the last doctor. That’s why the doctor didn’t tell her everything, but asked her to wait outside and informed me that there were such dangerous possibilities as cancer, tumor or infection, and that an MRI was necessary. I requested him not to write that on paper, thinking that my wife will panic. She is very emotional. That’s why we waited for a few days, thinking that things will improve. Please understand us, doctor”. I reassured him, and treatment was started.

The inflow of blatant allegations against allopaths/ modern medical practitioners is now so wide and strong, that this has sensitized some of the best doctors. Some have started to entirely avoid mentioning the tests required for a complete evaluation of a condition, knowing that if the doctor advises any tests, the only interpretation in our society is that those are for earning more money.

“Patients themselves do so many tests and take so many medicines without consulting a doctor. But if we advises any tests, the immediate allegation is that we want to earn more money. That affects our practice. So shall we still advise tests?” asked a colleague during a recent seminar. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The answer is a definite, loud yes. The duty of a doctor, besides being well qualified, skillful and compassionate, is also to boldly state fact and possibilities, advise the best investigations and treatments to every patient, poor or rich, VIP or AAP, and write these all on the patient’s case paper. The workup / investigations advised should be according to the global best practice guidelines. Poverty and illiteracy are neither the faults or responsibilities of a doctor, and like other professionals or even some governments, a doctor cannot provide “low grade” service to any poor patient. From the eyes of a doctor, even a penniless beggar should get the same advice about tests, medicines and surgery that the Prime Minister of the land gets. If ministers can go to corporate hospitals or even abroad for treatment, every citizen should also be sponsored for the same benefits by the same administration through the same funds, without preaching the doctors to do more “charity”. Otherwise we are a hypocritical society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Whether to do those tests or not, where to do them is the patient’s choice. Whether to take the advised medicines is also upto the patient. The doctor may suggest the best place, request concessions, and if the patient is poor, suggest options to get financial help or refer to charity. But the quality of medical advice should never change. The only exception is an accusative, angry patient who is making paranoid efforts to find faults with everything that you do. One may politely decline to accept such a patient.

If the treating doctor has not advised all the tests necessary for the evaluation of relevant diagnostic possibilities, he/ she may be found guilty of negligence. To avoid advising tests just to please the patient would also be a moral crime. One must also refrain from crossing over to other specialties and advising tests before referral to the right specialist. Some “pretending to know everything from every specialty”, doctors advise various tests incorrectly, and even attempt treatments out of their expertise without a working diagnosis. . Such dangerous doctors may add to the woes and defamation of the profession. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The girl above is improving, although her balance is off, and she has developed t a squint. Most likely her squint will never improve. She is missing school for over three months now. She will now onwards live a compromised life: incomplete education, compromised marriage and the condescending Indian society where shame of physical disability like squints and lisps, slurring and imbalance are the essential components of most enjoyed comedies.

However, her squint is far lesser a problem than the one that our society has, against doctors.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Many people comment often that “Doctors should introspect”. I do not know how many of these people introspect about their own habit of finding faults with others before self. But the article above is an honest attempt to do so.

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The Duty And The Reward

The Duty And The Reward

Highly educated and informed, Mrs. Vinodini Bapat came with a worried face about a year ago. Her MRI had shown a tumour. When I told her that it was likely a large Tuberculoma (A tumor mass caused by tuberculosis of the brain), she was naturally very worried. There was no definite way to know if it was a cancer.

After a long discussion based upon what she researched herself, helped by her loving husband and daughter, she was convinced that we can take a chance and start anti-tuberculosis medicines.

I was quite pleasantly surprised when I found that the whole family had completely trusted everything I had explained. To be very honest, doctors expect disbelief and multiple opinions mostly with the well educated and literate patients. However, although they asked many questions, tried and understood every step in the treatment, they were extremely polite and cooperative.

The test time came when her brain swelling increased, as happens with some Tb patients in the first few weeks if starting the treatment, and she threw a mini-fit. We had to admit her and treat as an emergency. Many questions popped up, but the family was as cooperative as ever, with complete trust.

The medicines caused many side effects, and we adjusted the doses to suit the patient best. She was extremely patient and tolerant in spite of so many ups and downs.

Now, one year later, Mrs. Bapat followed up today with her fresh MRI scan: the brain was now completely normal, there was no trace of tuberculosis. The tumor had disappeared!

When she handed over this beautiful note written for me, I told her that she and her husband were extremely cooperative and I was grateful for that.

Then they told me what I Wish every medical student learns: that it is important not to get annoyed with patient’s questions so long as they are relevant, to understand that it is the patient’s desire and right to know the details of their illness, treatment options and side effects, to participate in decision making, and above all, to be treated respectfully with compassion.

Educated patients who keep their faith in their doctors intact, and ask relevant questions without paranoid accusations should not be misunderstood. It is the duty of a treating doctor to honestly keep all the cards on the table and let the patient understand and participate whenever possible.

Once again my day is blessed with the ultimate rewards in medicine: a happy patient and words of gratitude.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Humanity Face / Off

Humanity Face / Off

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Your father in ICU has probably had bleeding in the brain. We need an urgent CT scan” I told the son waiting outside. The old man was admitted late in the evening, although he had had severe headache and weakness on one side since that morning. His son had just returned after a “one-hour” quick meal. Besides flaunting many brands upon his person, he had already told me that he was the vice president of a well known software company.

“Yes, doctor, I am just waiting for the approval from his insurance company.” The son replied. For doctors running in and out of critical care units, the “Cool Calm” of such educated relatives is beyond understanding. Most insurance companies work office hours, approvals come at their own speed, they are least concerned about the patient outcome.

Everything was being kept on hold. Hospitals do not want to proceed with costly tests and investigations unless they are life saving, because most relatives flatly refuse to pay if the insurance company denies approval. The doctor suffers a double blow emotionally: because things are delayed and also because relatives blame only the doctor.

“This is urgent. Please consider making the payments and filing for reimbursement later, so we can make decisions faster” I told him.

“If it is urgent, why don’t you get it done? I will not pay, his insurance company will have to approve” said the son.

I thought about the patient. In the waiting room, the patient’s wife, an old lady, kept praying. I wished she was also praying for a better son. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. I requested the hospital authorities, and as always, they agreed to help. A CT scan was done, it did show bleeding in the old man’s brain. When informed, the son winced. “How many more days in the hospital?” he asked.

“Usually it takes a week for such patients to stabilize” we told him.

“Can you discharge him? I will arrange for some nurse to give him treatment at home. Just write the medicines he needs” he said. His mother, hesitant, asked “Is it necessary to treat here, doctor? If his health is in danger, we will stay”.

Angrily, the son cut off his mom. “No, mom, this has become a business. They will extend stay even if it is not necessary. If it is only medicines, why does he need to be in hospital?” he asked me.

“Because such patients often develop excess swelling in the brain, or other complications. They can also develop convulsions or lapse into a coma if swelling worsens” I unchained my patience.

“Do you guarantee that those complications will not happen if we keep him here?” he asked.

“No. Only that he can be managed in time, if any complication develops” I replied. There’s no word called “Guarantee” in the medical dictionary. It is only a quack’s favorite trick. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Then why stay here? I have a nursing home nearby, we will go there if there is any problem” the son said, turning his back upon his mother.

The open-secret was revealed soon: the insurance cover that he had bought for his father was minimal, it was over now, and he didn’t want to pay anything from the pocket.

I explained the patient’s wife about the medicines and care, updated her with the warning signs of danger in such cases. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, I am alone at home with my husband all day. My son and daughter in law both work and return late. What will I do in case there is an emergency?” I gave her some contacts near her home, ambulance numbers and doctors.

“Is it okay if she calls you daily to inform the patient’s condition and ask what medicines are to be given in case of an emergency?” the son asked.

“Sorry, we cannot manage patients on phone” I replied.

“Sorry doc, don’t take this personally, but there’s no humanity left in this profession now a days. No one wants to help even an old patient” he commented. I didn’t reply.

They returned in three days, the patient comatose. The brain swelling had increased to dangerous levels. Patient was operated in emergency, saved with a great effort. The son had to foot the whole bill this time. “This is quite unfortunate” he kept saying, reminding me to keep expenses “lowest” because he was paying from his pocket. Finally came the day of discharge. Knowing the questions, I explained them the medicines on discharge.

“Doc, he is a senior citizen. You must give us discounts” said the son.

“Sorry, the hospital decides the billing. My charges are already minimal”. I told him the truth.

“Just as I said, there’s no humanity left” he looked at his mother and said. It was now the time to chain my patience. I knew the right reply this time.

“Yes, Sir”, I said “ I agree. Humanity is indeed on a decline, but more in your family than in my profession”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Goddess Of Humanity

The Goddess Of Humanity

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When I entered the hospital today, little did I know that I would meet someone who changes lives by example.

Then I met Mrs. Jasmine Govindji Majethia. A lady far superior than most men I ever met, a spirit with an energy to defeat ten ripped-jeans-teenagers, a soul that can only belong to a saint in any religion!

At the age of 80, Mrs. Jasmine Majethia is working 24/7, traveling alone all over India to help patients with Thalassemia get treatment in time, to generate awareness among people and even medical community. She has been doing this for over 30 years now. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This morning I had received a call: “Hi. I am sending an old lady to your OPD. She has done a lot for the society. She has had some episodes of unconsciousness recently” said our Pathology chief Dr. Mrs. Nita Munshi, always out to help others full throttle.

Mrs. Majethia told me that her tremors were long standing, but recently she had had some episodes of unconsciousness. It had all started after a stressful event related to one of her Thalassemia kids.

“I cannot sit at home. I have so much to do. Tell me what tests are required, tell me what medicine I should take, but I want to continue my work” the lady had an authority difficult to match. I followed her orders.

Born and raised in Calcutta, married in Mumbai, she finished her family duties and joined the LTM Medical College Sion to work as a liaison officer with Dr. Lokeshwar, who invoked her interest in Thalassemia. Witnessing the plight of children with Thalassemia and their parents, she decided to make it the mission of her life to stand up for them. She established PATUT (Parents Association Thalassemic Unit Trust) to help the affected families with financial and other support for treatments. This Goddess of humanity has thus saved many a lives, roping in doctors, hospitals, trusts, friends, rich and poor donors to help this cause.

“Zero Thalassemia Birth Rate in India by 2020 is the mission of my life. I am not ashamed of knocking doors and asking for help because it is not for myself.” said the lady with a steel resolve. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“There’s hardly anyone who can resist helping her cause. She is like a gentle pinch of conscience for those who have excess, to help others” said Dr. Munshi.

Thalassemia affects over 40 million people in India and kills thousands every year, it can easily be prevented with simple precautions. Even countries far backward than India have rules that make Thalassemia screening legally mandatory before / during pregnancy, and thus prevent any child births with this condition (“Zero Thal Birth Rate”). However, lack of awareness and screening, apathy on the part of our governments has continued to increase the burden of this disease in India. The treatment is extremely costly in some cases, and out of reach for most common Indians.

Mrs. Majethia spoke with the passion of a revolutionary: “So many doctors all over the country, like your colleagues Dr. Vijay Ramanan, Dr. Nita Munshi and Mrs. Trupti Thanekar always help me in my cause, whenever I request help. But the sad part is that there is almost no health awareness in our country. Even if we offer free treatment, many parents do not avail of it until it is too late and the case gets complicated.”

“Yet I like to think that God has given me in excess than what I need. Even Life. It is my duty to give some of it to those who are unlucky. I tell myself that God has selected me to do this work, because I can.” Such simple words, yet so powerful in their meaning! I really wish that she must receive best of the National Honours and medals for her work.

Every now and then, some insurance agent gives me plans to retire early and still earn well. Some tell me how people make retirement plans by age 40. Until now, I didn’t find exact words to tell them that many of us do not want to retire, that I wanted to work till my last breath. This lady was the answer, the literal personification of the words I AM MY WORK.

Across the cultures, there are Gods and Goddesses of Beauty, Fame, Love, Sport and Affluence. Rarely do we hear of a God of Work or Goddess of Humanity. In Mrs. Jasmine Majethia, I found the Working Goddess of Humanity.

My highest respect to this lady, one of the most inspiring women I ever met!

PS: She agreed to record a short message for everyone including doctors, please click this link in my comment below this article to listen to her divine voice.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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To pause for respect

To pause for respect

To pause for respect

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

After completing the neurological examination, I asked Mr Harkishan Budhrani to sit down and put his shoes on. His son accompanying him got up, sat near his father’s feet and started to adjust his father’s shoes for comfort.

To pause for respect was my only choice.

Mr Harkishan Budhrani is a British citizen, and so are his sons Mr Naresh and Mr Raj. Every time one of them accompanies Mr. Budhrani for the consultation. They not only come prepared with their father’s health details, but also take notes and follow all the suggestions. Yet what is most noticeable for me as a doctor is the care and respect with which they speak to their father and treat him. There’s nothing artificial about their attitude, which makes it special! They take his permission for every change we agree to make, explain him and patiently wait for his consent and questions. They hold his hand and even ask him whether it is ok to walk ahead! Rarely do we see children from very affluent families being so careful and loving to their parents.

In an era where many a times sons and daughters accompanying their parents either bluntly ask “How long is the parent going to survive, What basic minimum can be done without much expenditure, Is it okay not to treat at all” etc., when we come across such extremely gratifying moments, I feel that all is not lost. By experience now I don’t think that this belongs specifically to Indian culture, in fact people from most cultures in the world treat their parents far better than many Indians. The very fact that Our govt and courts have to make laws and take steps for abandoned and neglected parents speaks a lot about what is happening. In fact, the more affluent a family is, the less likely that the children genuinely care for their parents.

Taking for granted that the parents do not want to live longer, deciding on their behalf that expensive treatments are useless and unwanted, oversimplifying all complaints as ‘age related’ and completely neglecting medical care are common observations in our practice.

This moment therefore brought me a beautiful ray of hope.

21st July 2018 is Mr. Harkishan Budhrani’s 85th Birthday. While I pray for his excellent health and perpetual happiness, I wish that every parent is as fortunate as him and that Mr Budhrani lives on many more hundred years as an example for all of us.

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Victim? Dr. Reena’s story

Victim? Dr. Reena’s story

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I am being victimised, Sir! I have tried to do my best, but my senior has developed some prejudice against me and has started to find faults with everything I do. I don’t know, I feel suicidal sometimes” the resident doctor Reena said, breaking down. She was into medicine, one of the toughest branches for post graduation.

This was a difficult situation. It is very well known that some seniors and teachers do take advantage of the situation to mistreat and misuse their students or subordinates. It is also well known that both men and women in every profession, including medicine, have strong gender biases and favouritism. Sycophancy is so essential in India, that I wonder sometimes whether an official bachelors / masters “Chamchagiri” (sycophancy) certificate will be necessary before people are selected for their jobs.

I gave her some instructions to ignore words and minor incidences, and concentrate on doing her official duties with concentration. I also counselled her about how to handle egoistic, arrogant seniors. She was supposed to follow up next week.

That weekend, I met a colleague of mine, Dr. Anand, in the coffee shop. There was no OPD, it being a Sunday. We sipped coffee in the canteen, telling each other funny stuff about other colleagues. Medicine provides great entertainment too, in the form of various types of doctors, and we start with ourselves usually. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Just then, another doctor came in, Dr. Anand invited him to join us and introduced me to him as Dr. Ashwin. “Ashwin was my junior resident” said Dr. Anand, “and one of the most brilliant students. He’s a wiz. He wanted to work for the downtrodden, so he has continued to work at the govt. hospital after his MD. Most dedicated! That’s why most girls around us liked him and we all envied him”. It is rare for Anand to praise someone this much, I was quite impressed and happy.

But Dr. Ashwin appeared quite disturbed. Dr. Anand asked him if he was ok.

“No, yaar. I am facing a big problem. There’s this girl in my unit, who has made my life hell. She has filed complaints against me to the dean, my name is all mud”.

“Complain against you?” said Dr. Anand, truly surprised “Even your wife never complains against you”. He was trying to lighten up the mood. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Yes. But you know how heavy our PG duties are. This girl, besides being lousy and careless, refuses to finish her work, constantly looks at the watch and doesn’t want to be corrected. How can we tolerate carelessness in medicine? There are patients in the ICU and this lady keeps busy with her cellphone! I gave her a warning that I will complain, but instead, she went ahead and complained that I was harassing her, implying serious charges. Fortunately my wife and the dean understand the situation, but you know some people in the campus would rather see me down. I don’t know what to do. I am thinking of resigning”.

“Can you share her name?” I asked, cautiously. The guess was correct. It indeed was Dr. Reena.

“I tried to talk to her, I requested her to call her parents. Apparently she has grown up as a pampered child, her parents refuse to even think that she can be wrong. They started complaining that their daughter didn’t get enough rest and good food, that she has always been a super genius kid and how many a times even her teachers could not understand her genius”.

Now the picture was clear, with the other side of the story revealed.

There indeed is, nowadays, a rampant tendency to play a victim, especially to cover up for one’s own failures, inadequacies and lethargy. Children who allege that their failures are either because of their parents being over disciplined or completely negligent, boys who hate their parents and refuse accepting that they fell short of hard work and dedication because of too many diversions, girls who sometimes lie about “sexual abuse”, and employees who underperform only to blame it upon a racist / pervert / prejudiced boss are classical examples when stress factors are analysed well. There was one girl who alleged abuse by her step father, just to tell me minutes later that it was probably her imagination, and that she didn’t know if it was a dream! It was her mother who then revealed that the girl had always used that ‘dream reality’ sequence whenever she wanted something and was refused. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There indeed is rampant true victimisation in all these areas, and one must always stand by the victim. But the overflow of sympathy that drowns sense and reasoning (thank you, media and some movies!) must always be avoided. Differentiating ‘true’ and ‘pseudo’ victims is never easy especially because there always will be the social biases. Most Indian men unfortunately truly look down upon women, most seniors think that juniors cannot be more intelligent, parents often mentally overpower logic when dealing with kids etc.. Still there indeed are many who hide behind the “victim” tag, just to take advantage of the sympathy and protection it offers, using it to hide their own negative side. A lot of people use suicide threats, false complaints and other pressure tactics to emotionally exploit and threaten others. When this happens in a workplace, it poisons the whole atmosphere. There is indeed no protection for the true victims here.

Next time when Dr. Reena came to visit, I told her how I chanced upon the doctor who was “troubling” her. As expected, she cried and defended her stance, but after some gentle coaxing, when I reiterated that the actual problem must be dealt with, she agreed to have a meeting with Dr. Ashwin. I called in a female counsellor too, and in a few meetings, we could sort out the issue.

Medical career is, difficult, it is important to do every single thing perfectly and with utmost care and concentration. No one else can ever replace the life-saving responsibility of a doctor on duty. A doctor who isn’t fully attentive to everything about every patient can be dangerous.

Dr. Reena agreed to go by the duties allotted and improve her performance, while Dr. Ashwin reassured her that he had nothing personal against her, that she could always compare her duties and performance with her other batchmates. He also told her that now onwards he will mind his words better. She withdrew the complaint.

Dedicated to those such who have had this horrible experience.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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