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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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“Why Don’t You Marry Her, Doc?”

photo 19-09-16, 22 52 52
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, she cannot walk, she is paralysed below chest since last few days. Her husband doesn’t care, he has abandoned her. She has no money or insurance for tests or treatment. I want to help her, I don’t know what to do” I told my junior consultant, who was having his coffee break with senior consultant and the departmental secretaries. He looked at me in a nasty way, and said “Why don’t you marry her?” and they all laughed aloud. However, although my professor smiled with them, he asked me to get the patient’s papers.

She was a case of Multiple Sclerosis, in her early thirties, and had lost ability to walk. Her sensation below the waist, control over urine was also lost. This ghastly illness of the brain and spine often cripples the young. In many cases, when such disability develops, divorces follow. The world as we doctors see it is far more cruel, deceptive and dangerous than most illnesses humanity knows. She was left with a small daughter and no income. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I felt insulted, but I was in a foreign country. The junior consultant was known for his sarcastic humour and enjoyed impressing women around him, often at the cost of others, like so many dwarfs who take advantage of their chair to achieve what they otherwise cannot. I chose to ignore him, and got the papers to our boss, who called a colleague to enrol the patient in one of the upcoming research trials. That would ensure her free tests and medicines for a few years. I told her the good news. She started sobbing, then handed me a note written by her:
“I am killing myself as I have nothing left except my daughter, I cannot look after her with my disability. I have no complaints against anyone. Please look after my daughter”.
In some time, after she stabilised, she said “Doc, I had come prepared to kill myself today. My daughter is sitting in the cafeteria. If you had not told me what you did just now, believe me, I was planning to drive my wheelchair off the roof today”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We called her 10 year old daughter from the cafeteria. Little did the cute child know how lucky she was to see her mother again that day.

That evening, my boss, the senior consultant, took me out for a dinner. Once the red wine loosened strained faces, he started to speak: “Rajaas, I know you are kind and you want to help others. I know you feel for your patients. But I must caution you, don’t get carried away. Your job is clear: to listen, to advise the best line of investigations and treatment, to explain, and to compassionately guide. Don’t carry too much weight upon your shoulders”.
“Why, Sir?”I asked politely, “I feel inner peace when I walk an extra mile to help my patient. How can that cause me any harm? Didn’t this lady survive just because you helped her today?”
“Because it is a never ending burden. To be able to effectively help everyone coming to you, you must have too much money and too much time. Doctors seldom have either. I lost a lot of time and money, to realise that this cycle never ends, that newer and more people need your help every day, all your life. I almost went bankrupt, collapsed and quit under stress. Then I realised that I must limit this so I could serve them best the next day”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It felt like dry reasoning at that moment. However, boss continued to help patients beyond duty whenever I asked him. Over years, I realised how correct Boss was!

My dear british colleague Dr. Mindy was trying to help a patient through her divorce, I accompanied her. As the patient opened up, she revealed to Mindy that although she enjoyed marijuana, her husband was involved in the sale of other illicit drugs, and that was one reason that she wanted to divorce him. Dr. Mindy involved a counsellor to help her out. However, after they decided to patch up their marriage, the patient told her husband that she had confided in Dr. Mindy. The husband came over and politely threatened her to keep all the information only to herself, otherwise be prepared for dare consequences.
We all spent many a restless nights after that.

Emotionally disturbed, helpless patients, those who are treated unfair by family often depend upon a kind doctor. They get quite restless at times, worry a lot and then expect an immediate hearing and resolution from their doctor. From suicide threats to blackmails, there are messages that pour in once that channel is opened. This sometimes wreaks havoc in the doctor‘s life, because being disturbed affects clinical practice and decision making. The small time left for self and family is thus shot dead. A patient who becomes emotionally dependent upon the doctor can turn into a nightmare for the doctor. Over years, I learnt to balance this, going out of the way only for the few truly deserving patients.

Thousands of patients have survived just because their doctor emotionally supported them in time, otherwise they would have died of lack of will to carry on. No one ever credits the doctors who become emotional back-ups for their patients: a service that costs them time and stress, without any income. That is unfortunately considered a “duty” of the doctor, to be kind and available at bad times, but to be forgotten in good times. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Many actually think that good words, compliments and “a satisfaction of serving” should be sufficient compensation for the doctor. Nothing fully compensates, although kind words do sometimes make one feel good.

However, what caused worse hurt to me was some of my own colleagues who made fun of me and many other doctors who went out of their way to help patients. “Impractical, unnecessary, worthless, drama”, and so many other adjectives are used by colleagues and even seniors/ some teachers for doctors, students, residents who walk an extra mile to help their patients. I was extremely fortunate that I met some good teachers who supported my efforts without mocking me, and I continue to meet students who carry on this noble trait forwards.

When I was leaving, the junior consultant came over for the farewell too, and told me in too many words how I must learn to be “Practical”. I gave him a reply that one teacher with advanced genius had taught me years ago, for people who do less themselves and advise others a lot. This reply saves a lot of time and energy, my teacher had told me, and its beauty is that people don’t even understand that you are saying ‘those two useful words’ when you reply like this:

I just smiled at him.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Ban the Entire Medical Profession!

Ban the Entire Medical Profession!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We were always much entertained by a very famous surgeon who would just sit all dressed up in the operation theater. As the worried relatives kept praying in the waiting room, the patient was operated by some other experienced and skilled doctors employed by this ‘famous’ doctor. He would just sit watching TV in his private room within the operation theater, till the surgery was over. Then, he would come out with a benevolent smile, pretend that he was too exhausted, and tell the relatives “that was an extraordinary case. We had almost lost your patient. I had to make a great effort, use all my dedication, knowledge and experience, but finally I could save him. You are very lucky”. Needless to say, the relatives would touch his feet, overwhelmed by emotion, little knowing that this surgeon has not even touched their patient. Bills floated swollen. The patient or the relatives never knew who actually saved that life. In our education to be doctors, we also learnt “what not to do” from such doctors!

With a recent speech in London, I was reminded of this.
It was very unfortunate that the Hon’ble Prime Minister of our own country spoke quite demeaning about the entire Indian medical profession in a foreign country. Nearly one third doctors in the developed world are from India, leaving India because it offers them no good opportunity, compensation or even basic security. The PM seems to disown the patriotic doctors who try to survive in and serve India. Where is the love for India? Does one demonstrate it by showing everyone else in the country down?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Let me at the outset clarify that there are some corrupt doctors, some get favours from pharma, and some participate in malpractice. The government always had rights and law in their hand to act against such doctors. The hubs of corruption evolve when the government allows medical seats to be bought for the meritless rich. Our govt. allows crores of sales of medical seats.

We wish our PM also spoke about how many political leaders in this country own medical colleges and what is the actual income that they generate by sales of UG / PG medical seats? Like the prices of all drugs and stents, why not reduce the price of medical seats too?

He said that Indian doctors “do not travel to Singapore to see poor patients”. Was he serving the poor Indian farmers in London? How many poor farmers or labourers accompanied the PM or his delegations on any of his foreign trips? For a PM who has extensively travelled the world, to criticise highly educated doctors for traveling abroad is so unbecoming! Doctors interact with experts from other countries for learning, continuing medical education, and just because Indian politics has screwed the nation into poverty, doctors cannot stop that interaction which is a standard learning process all the world over. Just as Indian politicians who go abroad for treatment to Singapore and London etc. don’t go there to have fun, doctors too do not go for just fun but for a grand purpose: to bring in new knowledge and skills to Indian people.

Then he said that he “enquired” about stents and found that doctors were “”duping” / deceiving all patients into buying costly stents. The PM has himself said in many speeches that he is not educated much, any medical discussion needs high standards of education, scientific proofs and statistics. I am sure that the right people / departments / doctors were consulted by the PM before taking such decisions. Why did he then say “I found out and changed this” rather than “our medical experts / team did this” ? Under the privacy laws no one will know what stents go into which class of people, but from what the doctors see, most politicians and high placed officers opt for “the best and imported”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We wish that the PM, on his next foreign trip on an international platform, also speaks about the state of the government-run hospitals, the federal funding for healthcare, the quality of healthcare provided at rural and primary healthcare centers all across India, the gross inadequacy of staff and the absence of specialists, ICUs, Operation Theatres, in almost all government-run hospitals.

We also wish the PM speaks on an international platform about the state of hostels for undergraduate and postgraduate medical students in India, where they have to live about 4-6 people in a small single room, while the huge luxurious premises for various govt. officers and ministers lie vacant most of the time.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We wish the PM also speaks about the good doctors (all his recent speeches imply that there are no good doctors in India), extraordinary medical achievements of Indian doctors, about those who serve in rural India while facing humungous difficulties, those who bring medical tourism to India, those who run so many charity hospitals, those who bring world class healthcare to Indian patients, those grassroot doctors and paramedics who effectively carry out the govt’s schemes all year round by hard work, including polio and other vaccinations, mother-child care etc. without “just once posing” for the media?\

Even under various govt. health schemes, the poorer class patients go to cheaper general wards, while a senior officer from the same office will receive premium class healthcare at a private hospital. This “class-discrimination” in healthcare by govt is not justified. Wish the PM spoke about this too.

Will the PM also speak about the doctors/ health department officials and ministers who help him bring good changes in Indian Healthcare? If the entire modern medicine profession was so bad, why doesn’t the PM ban it completely and provide healthcare with different Babas and Gurus so rampant with powerful blessings today?

We so much wish that the PM speaks on an international platform how he justifies brutal violence against doctors all over India.

India deserves far better healthcare. But that starts with the facilities for majority: at the level of government-run hospitals, healthcare facilities all over India, reachable for the common man, affordable equally to all classes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Unless all the government hospitals provide high quality free healthcare to all without discrimination, unless all the problems that the govt can resolve in a day by sanctioning adequate staff and funds for government-run healthcare are sorted out, it is futile to just increase the gap between the doctor and patient by blanket-defamation and maligning of the private healthcare on public platforms, especially international. Incidentally, our private hospitals also cater to millions of poor and the very ministers who run the country.

I have nothing personal against any political leader or party, I am hopeful of good changes happening in Indian healthcare. But I feel compelled to speak about the other side, the good doctors who are the pride of our country. I must defend the good in my profession, because I love it just as I love my patients, just as I love my India.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Morphine That Killed a Hospital

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“He fell down while checking the patient”, said the panicked Dr. Mrs. Sane about her husband, “and became unconscious”.

Dr. Sane tried to maintain his calm. A sick doctor has the curse of knowing the worst of everything, and has a perpetual feeling of sitting upon a ticking time-bomb. It was a sad feeling to see this middle aged brilliant general practitioner fighting tears.

“Sir, the OPD numbers have shot up because of these epidemics, especially dengue. I see over a hundred patients every day. The Inpatient beds are full. There are daily problems: medical, administrative and medico-legal.. those I am used to. But now there are too many politico-social and press-related issues that worry me”.

Dr. Deshmukh, a senior practitioner and a common friend, accompanied Dr. Sane. He cautiously poked him “You must tell the doctor what happened the day before”.
“Oh that’s a part of our profession” Dr. Sane replied.
I insisted that he must tell me.

Reluctantly, he disclosed: “Some goons came in with a municipal councillor and threatened to waive off the bills of a dengue patient. He was in the ICU for five days, quite bad, but went home walking. Till the time he improved, they kept on threatening us to break the hospital and thrash us if something went wrong. Upon discharge, they didn’t pay a single rupee. There’s nowhere to complain, as the hospital requires many municipal permissions”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dr. Mrs Sane lost her cool. She started sobbing. “No one blames those who dump garbage, keep their surroundings unclean. No one is blamed when epidemics spread and thousands die. No one is held responsible for failures of almost all preventive services and lack of basic facilities at government’s healthcare institutes. But the already overworked general practitioners must bear the brunt of everyone’s anger: the public and press are always free to bash the last face they see: the doctor who is actually helping every patient,.. Dr. Sane has not had a proper lunch, not spent a full day with kids in months.. That hospital has become our curse“ She broke down.

It was so logical! The offices responsible cannot even be reached. The court does not see any of these system failures that cause millions of deaths all across India, happily ordering lakhs and crores and imprisonments for doctors, for trivial mistakes.
Whom to blame? Oh yes, the doctor who has studied to treat the sick!

Anyway, in a country fond of muscular heroes and billionaire godmen, who expects a brainy analysis? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I had a dream of making best health facilities available for my area. I have taken a big loan. We treat poor patients free anyway. Many rich are sent by local politicians, leaders, administrators with instructions to attend immediately and free too. Paying patients are mostly suspicious because of all the negative things publicised by press about all doctors., they also expect immediate and positive outcomes. I have not slept for many a nights. “

I examined him.He had obvious features of being fatigued mentally and physically.. A syncopal attack, where the BP drops down suddenly and makes the patient unconscious, was likely. I advised him tests and told him to take rest for there days.

“Not possible, sir! Even now the OPD is waiting” he replied. An angry Dr. Mrs Sane requested me to intervene.

“Your duty to the society does not free you from the duty towards your own health and family” I requested him. But Dr. Sane agreed only when Dr. Deshmukh offered to send over a junior doctor to his hospital to take care of the OPD.

“How have you been, Sir?” I asked Dr. Deshmukh. He is one of the most respected and busiest general practitioners in town, with a big hospital. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dr. Deshmukh smiled.
“I had an angioplasty three months ago. The only risk factor was high BP and stress. There is no use fighting or explaining our situation to the society, government or press. I have closed down my hospital. I only see OPD patients now. Anyway many patients thought that I worked day and night for earning more money. Let them go to the corporate or government hospitals.”

The death of his hospital was not a surprising news, many small private hospitals and nursing homes are either closing down or converting into profit-making franchises. Many doctors are suffering high BP, cardiac and neurological problems and even dying due to excessive stress.

The meaning of this nightmare will soon unfold upon our society.
Till then, this is a heartfelt appeal to all the over-stressed doctors to rethink about their priorities, rearrange life and make sure stress does not kill.

For the morphine of “medical social service” is only good in small doses, it kills when overdone!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Hell In Our Mind

The Hell In Our Mind
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Did you look at her ****? Asked my classmate.
We were in college. I felt blood rushing to my ears. What if my mother or father heard this? I thought.
“No, I didn’t. Why?” and there followed unnecessary volumes of gyaan.
This girl from a rich business class minority in India was one of the most meritorious in our college. She was also supposed to be very beautiful, and (now that my classmates had too much talk about it, I couldn’t ignore), also had a nice figure. There were fan clubs after her. Some were also jealous of me as she often talked to me and my friend Shafi after the college. She had a heart more beautiful than her smile!
Everything changed one day. She had a bad accident. Without helmet, she suffered many injuries to her face and had multiple fractures. She recovered well, but had a totally scarred face, a twisted arm and a limp as remaining deficit.
Like magic, all the fans disappeared. Her worth as a female in their eyes was suddenly reduced, thanks to her exterior. The attention shifted elsewhere.
Once, while walking back after college under a wet evening, she asked me “Do you think I am beautiful? Answer the truth, what you feel”.
Just as I paused for a second for the right words to say “Yes” without sounding artificial, she added : “Say no. Because I hate the word ‘beautiful’ now”.
From books to scriptures, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from cultures to parents, men and women have insisted that the only woman worthy of being a woman, the only woman worthy of living a life full of love, attention and praise is the beautiful, young woman with a great body who can bear children. Women who are not physically endowed, who cannot bear children or compensate for it by different methods, who are not earning for the family are considered equivalent of ‘useless’ in our so called civilised world. Rarely do marital ads desire “Honest, Truthful and Caring” people, we know what they all demand.
Where do others go, those who are not physically attractive? How do they accommodate to men or even women drooling over physically attractive bodies?
A lot of Zen taught me: “Everyone is beautiful but still think they are not”. 
But it did not answer why the humans evolved to love only the exterior. By no means that is any sign of intelligent evolution. A beautiful young lady gets a lift faster, a phenomenon amplified in movies, with her showing off more skin to stop traffic. Aren’t we missing the obvious?
Recently, in my OPD.
“Doctor, I am not considered to be alive. My being is useless. I have stopped eating now. Suicide is my only relief” she said, amidst unending sobs. “This world is made only for useful women, I am supposed to be useless”.
Very intelligent. Elegantly dressed, sharp in her grasp of the situation. Well behaved.
Last week she had had a blackout.
Her examination being normal, I had asked her carefully if she had any stress. The answer came out in the form of an ocean of tears as she choked, she still wanted to defend the secret that hurt her.
After a cup of water, she made up her mind. “Doctor, please never tell anyone, that I told this to you. I cannot have children. The doctors who treat for fertility are trying their best. There are issues on both sides, but my husband does not want to talk about it to his parents. They presume it is all my fault. Although my hubby is well educated, his parents are quite orthodox. It is four years since marriage, and now I have become the target in my own home. When my husband is out, I am left to bear innumerable taunts.. I tried telling my mother in law in confidence, but she declined to believe that her son had any fault. Now they want me to leave, but they cannot openly say so. Where will I go now?”
“My husband talks to me now as if I am some unwanted burden. He just snaps or shouts and prefers to stay away from me even when at home. We have a purely mechanical relationship now, where I serve as his robot. I never imagined such a loveless life”. She paused till another bout of humiliating thoughts were swallowed. “I was working when I married. I quit my job in anticipation of pregnancy. Now he says I should not join till I have at least one child. Work will increase stress, the doctor says it may affect my becoming pregnant”.
“You need to meet a counsellor together” I advised her.
“We did. My husband refused to see her again. My in laws use many bad words from different socio-religious contexts, so humiliating! My self esteem is all gone. Is a woman useless if she can’t have a child, Doctor? Do I become a lesser human if I don’t become a mother? I desperately want to have a child, I had so many dreams of motherhood, I am suffering this myself, but now I feel like an orphan with no one in the whole universe”.
I reassured her and sent her to a fertility specialist who was also an excellent counsellor herself.
With so many excellent facilities and experts now available for assisting fertility, treating infertility and aiding child bearing in every possible way, India is at the forefront in this field. Add to this the cheapest treatments compared to the developed world, and best trained doctors. Still, there are cases where couples cannot have children. All the blame is automatically placed upon the woman. Leave aside the inability to have children, the woman suffers “denial of human being” status with this fault of nature.
There are so many laws against discrimination. Yet, one of the worst open discrimination in the world is against people who are physically unattractive, especially women, more so if they cannot have children. The change has to start from within each of us. How we think, what we say and how we behave must all change to eliminate this discrimination, worse than racism, because it comes from one’s own!
Yo mama cannot be ugly, hence no other woman can be.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande