Tag Archives: specialist

The “Cheap Competition” among Doctors: a Hidden Cancer.

The “Cheap Competition” among Doctors: a Hidden Cancer.
©Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

A majority of medical students in India are actually from poor or middle class background. Most students come in this profession for service to the suffering and also for social respect. Every doctor passing out in India does not pay crores of rupees for education. This is a system created and maintained by all governments for their strongmen as a source of huge earnings. Many of these “paying” students also work hard and earn their degree. However some few look at the amount spent as an investment and try to earn it back by unfair means. This is NOT the fault of the majority of good doctors (both non-paying and paying) who work hard to acquire their skills and help the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the society expects “cheapest” advice even for most complicated health issues, some newcomers, those who are under qualified, those who do not have a good number, and some who don’t have the confidence keep their “Consultation fees” quite low, and rely upon alternate income: through tests, procedures and surgeries, through percentage in hospital bills. Thus, though the ‘entry ticket’ is low, the ‘hidden charges’ compensate for the doctor’s (genuine) hard work and skill.
However, not all ‘low fees’ doctors are bad, but keep their rates low to be able to compete, no one wants to criticise those who have low fees for ulterior motives. This competition to keep the consultation fees low to attract patients has generated most evils in the medical practice. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change soon, as most people prefer this.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The low “Consultation fees“ model works best for even good, skilled and experienced surgeons and branches with procedures (plasty/ scopy etc.), where the patient usually does not question the charges for the procedures or surgery, just because every patient prefers best skilled doctor. There is also a recent trend to offer even “procedures and surgeries” at a competitive low cost by some hospitals, who employ the inexperienced or inadequately qualified/ trained doctors, beginners, lowest skilled nurses, technicians and other staff and instrumentation, catheters, joints, other prostheses. The whole show will be put up for “short term goals”, risking patient’s life and compromising many aspects of good care. In many “cheap packages”, the long term outcomes may be at risk.

Those who run hospitals have many profit sources: right from the tea sold inside the hospital campus to the room charges, pathology and radiology, nursing, drugs and everything used, they earn profits under multiple headings. This is also why they can afford to keep their consultation fees extremely low. However, most doctors employed at such hospitals are not paid anything besides their own low consultation fees, while they remain the face of the “total-bill” for all patients. This system encourages rich doctors who invest in alternative sources of income than the consultation fees alone. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Physicians / specialists must rely only upon their OPD consultation and IPD visits. If a proper examination is to be done in each case, and all questions of every patient are to be addressed, one cannot see more than 20-25 patients in a day. Thus if he / she keeps low fees, it becomes difficult to sustain in any Indian city. So they must see as many patients as they can, only addressing the immediate medical issue, and unable to answer many queries of the patient and relatives. If a good doctor decides to spend more time with each patient, and gives up relying upon the “hidden income”, he must charge a much higher consultation fees to just sustain in a good city.

The social anger against doctors mostly comes from increased expenditures on health and unrealistic expectations. Although there are greedy doctors, a majority are just doing their best to make a good name by offering the best service at a low price. Quality healthcare will always come with a higher price-tag, a good doctor will have a higher fees, and that if one wants the “backdoor / cut / referral practice “ to end, one must be prepared to pay higher fees.

In a country where loud and sweet talk, deception and lies are preferred by majority over genuine service, honesty and truth, it is difficult to change the basic attitudes: on both sides..

There indeed are some honourable doctors and hospitals who know the value of their own service, and offer the best to their patient. But even they are usually considered “Greedy” by the very patients whose miseries they end. There are senior / skilled doctors who charge from three to ten thousand or more per consultation, and most of our powerful and ministers go to these doctors too. Although this consultation fees appears high, the accuracy of the opinion and advice often save the patients lacs of rupees. If a surgeon advises a surgery, he/ she can earn many thousands, but if the same surgeon with his skills and experience treats the patient conservatively, avoids surgery and gets good results, the patient is unwilling to pay even half the price of that surgery for the same result. What would anyone do in such a case? The concept that “A Right Opinion by the Right Specialist” saves the patient huge amounts of money and discomfort is yet to dawn upon the Indian society.

The market of cheap has always survived, but in the long run, cheap options always come with a greater final price tag upon health: often your life.

It is my sincere appeal to all my fellow practitioners from the newer generations to please change this structure. See a moderate number of patients per day, charge according to your skill, experience and time, do not undercharge or bargain, then alone this system of backdoor incomes will gradually change. Of course you must consider concessions for the really poor, and accommodate those who cannot pay by keeping a separate time/ OPD for them.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

PS:
Many city-based imbeciles without any doctor in their family will immediately say that all doctors should go to villages. Those who suggest that, please make your own children (if you have) doctors (if they have the caliber) and send them to villages. Why doesn’t the government make it compulsory for every mla and mp who draws lifelong financial benefits from the country’s exchequer, to send their kids to medical schools and serve in rural India compulsorily? Why is it not compulsory for the elected members to take all treatment in their own electorate? Every law is bent every which way possible to accommodate the healthcare requirements of all the rich and powerful, whether it is kidney transplant or joint replacement, but when extending healthcare to the poor and unaffording, the same people from various ruling parties conveniently point fingers at the medical professionals!

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The Colour Of Blessings

The Colour Of Blessings

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune

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The 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.
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The Zen Of a Doctor: An attempt of honest meditation

The Zen Of a Doctor
An attempt of honest meditation
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I am now tired, mentally fatigued, I want to recover to joy. I do not want to lie to myself.

I love treating patients, resolving their health problems. I love the feeling of their recovery. I love the gratitude that comes my way. I am proud of this ability to be compassionate, to harbor empathy and to understand and fight suffering of another human being. I am proud, that money is not on the top of my priority lists. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

But now I am tired of the whining: not the whining of suffering, for that is mine to destroy happily, but the whining by choice of adopting an extremely stressful, dirty, unclean, unhealthy lifestyle, not preparing to change, not preparing to pay for health, and then blaming it all upon a doctor. Women openly suppressed by husbands and large families, children tortured by parent’s whims, men exploited by their own desires and careers, and an orthodox, superstitious society where the most literate and educated believe in sometimes poisoning themselves with unknown medicines, and then have the audacity to question a qualified doctors’ intentions in writing a prescription. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They want everything of the best quality, from panipuri to cars, and are willing to pay extra for every luxury, while expecting that only healthcare must come free, and the very doctor whom they cannot trust, cannot tell the truth to, must treat them with best empathy and honesty, give them enough time to ask unnecessary questions and doubts, and then should waive off the fees out of sympathy. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I am also tired of the corrupt practices in medicine, and the hopeless scenario that everyone rather tends to believe that the doctors are all corrupt (some indeed are, but so are few in every profession, shut up pseudo Einsteins of argument!) rather than seeing the open markets established by uninhibited corporates who are seen hand in hand with the administrators, some pharmaceuticals and some in power. Corruption by those in high places, that ranges from producing some of the worst quality, inexperienced doctors, to dispensing lower quality everything just because they have understood this trick: people fall for low cost anything, even health. Such a disaster that people do so many unnecessary tests under the “Health Check” scams themselves, but when the doctor advises even one test, suspect him / her of wanting more money! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I refuse to be exploited. I can only change myself, not the world. Hence this meditation.

I want to live a good life: not full of gold and diamonds, but of joy, health and inner peace. Of independence, financial as well. Of my own choice and preference, not what the society decides for me. I want quality time for myself and my family too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I do not want to be a busy doctor irritated and shouting at everyone: I would rather earn less and guard my composure. Those who cannot respect this will be given a chance to understand, but only once.

I will continue to stay highest in my principles. I will refuse to compromise on the quality of healthcare I want to practice, just because someone wants a cheaper, faster but less ethical alternative, less correct choice. I will see less number of patients and rather spend enough quality time with each of them, and charge them higher as per time and expertise, rather than hurrying through.

I will choose to encourage trust in my patients with my own behavior and words, but if I realize they are still trustless and question my integrity, I will refer them to their choice of another specialist, because I want to retain my best peace of mind for my next patient.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I will not take the extra effort to explain everyone why I do what I do, my duty is to be honest to myself and my God, my patients. I have limited time, now and in life, and I will expect that faith, trust and a level of basic intelligence (that has nothing to do with education) will enable everyone to see clearly that I mean well. That is my promise to myself: I will always mean well to my patients, and offer them my best. That should never preclude my own happiness. This will enable me achieve my inner peace so essential for a doctor.

I feel better with this already.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Wrong Doctor, Wrong Punishments

Wrong doctor, Wrong Punishments
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“There are many wrong things going on in our profession, and I insist that you must write about them too. Working at a tertiary care center, I see many patients wrongly investigated and treated” my senior professor said on phone last week.
I did not argue. He was correct. He is one of the most brilliant and dedicated superspecialists I know, and I consider myself fortunate that I studied and worked under him. I just explained to him that my page was dedicated to highlight the good side of this profession, as there are umpteen critics but rare sources that speak about the good.
“But we must evolve. It is known that we are humans and there will be mistakes. Many patients die due to medical mistakes too. If we are open about the mistakes, even the law takes a lenient view. Most of the hospitals stand by the doctor if the mistake is honestly reported in time. Many patients understand that too” he said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I disagreed with him then, but as I worship his acumen, I decided to meditate about this.

Yes there undoubtedly are cases we see almost every day, wrongly investigated and treated. Underqualified, wrongly qualified and even unqualified doctors treat patients according to the best of their knowledge, but unfortunately intention alone is not enough to treat a patient correctly. Political support ensures the safety and proliferation of such practices. Although we all know the basic managements, the patient is not then offered the best.

That apart, sometimes, treatable illnesses are missed just because some general practitioners/ paraclinical practitioners/ crossover practitioners who think they know everything never take a second opinion of an expert in the respective field. Many a times though, it is the patients who choose to stay with the least charging practitioner, never knowing their treatable conditions are worsening all the time that they think they are saving money. The practice of obtaining a second opinion is quite healthy and must be encouraged at all levels, although there are some patients dissatisfied with even the twentieth opinion.

Hospitals without the requisite expertise (qualified experts or technology) to treat certain category of patients and conditions often freely admit any patient and treat based upon incompletes skill and resources (under the legal protection of emergency treatment clause). So long as it is cheap, the patient seldom questions treatment. Once they are referred to the higher center, the trust level sinks as bills increase. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This often results in a treatable condition worsening to a stage of untreatable emergency. All the anger against this is usually borne by the last doctor / hospital treating the patient and trying to help in their most difficult situation.The non availability of enough staff at many government-run set-ups is never questioned.

Let us consider that a doctor or a hospital has committed a mistake, and the hospital wants to honestly report it to the patient and apologise, then to legally compensate the patient.
It will be wild daydreaming if anyone thinks that our society is presently mature to handle this.

In India, a doctor is presumed guilty of almost every death or failure of improvement in patient’s health. Even a patient who has abused his / her body, not followed any healthcare instructions (smoking, drinking, diet, exercise, reducing work and stress etc., not taking medicines as advised and self treatment) still thinks he is qualified enough to blame the entire medical profession for his / her failing health.
Relatives who have never bothered to know if the patient took his / her meals or medicine in time, procrastinate taking the patient for timely check-ups suddenly become “google qualified lawyers against healthcare system” once something goes wrong. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Blatant advertisements of “complete health check up” including hundreds of unnecessary tests are seen everywhere, and the word “concession or free” is probably the sexiest lure in healthcare industry today. Here, the patients or relatives do not mind their blood being drawn, being exposed to unnecessary radiation, or being charged for unnecessary tests just because it is all cheap / concessional. There are umpteen examples where the patient google searches about symptoms, gets the blood tests, MRI and many other unnecessary tests, and then visits a qualified specialist.

Only the qualified doctor advising the necessary tests is labelled an unholy, profitmaking business.

Suppose the doctor declares his / her mistake. Who guarantees that it will be investigated in secrecy, only legally tried by a qualified team of medically updated judges, and if at all the doctor is guilty, then the legal punishment alone will be implemented, guarding the security and the reputation of such a doctor? In a country where the media as well as judiciary is often tainted, how safe is it for a doctor to honestly admit his / her mistake? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In a single day, the media will bring down the entire practice of alleged doctors and a reputation hard earned over decades . The mobs with different lawless communities will vandalise their hospitals. The police is unable to always stand by truth, given the influences that gag and tie them. The judiciary will come in later at a time when the doctor’s life will be scarred and damaged beyond repair. Not everyone among the doctors is expected to have a shameless mind structure to go on despite disrepute. Corporate hospitals very easily disown doctors if their reputation is threatened.

Just as there cannot be any compensation of a lost life, there also is no compensation for a doctor’s lost reputation. A doctor’s reputation is his professional life. So long as the society does not offer protection from mobs, media and wrongful allegations in expectation of free / cheap but accurate scientific healthcare, the doctor will never feel safe enough to come out with his / her mistake.

A trial with ensured privacy and security, guarded information to the media in correct format accepted by the court, and very strict guidelines about proceedings in such cases will alone help doctors come out in open about their own mistakes, and also against the malpractices in their own profession.

Till then, we are all at the mercy of the maturity of our politicians, media and society.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Goodbye, Doctor

Goodbye, Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Screw this satisfaction. Dump this happiness. Can you try to understand that I am fed up of both?” said Dr. Sahil. He was one of the busiest and most respected specialist in our town.

Surprised at a superspecialist doctor friend speaking this, still impressed by his ability to identify and speak the truth about himself. I let him go on.

“There’s no guilt. There’s no regret. I have done my best since school. Topped everything. I did not feel the extra effort: I finished graduation, PG and Super PG by merit alone, that too without having to make a great effort. I have practiced over 15 years now. I did some research, but don’t enjoy the kind of research that goes on in Clinical medicine now. I have practiced with all my heart, and all my time. Now I don’t want to. Repetition kills me, and I cannot see anything but that now”. He paused.

We shared the best bond between two humans: mutual respect with no curtains. Either of us didn’t feel the necessity to modify speech for political correctness or covering up naked feelings.

I replied: “I understand. But we always thought that we need to save lives, give back to the society. So many will benefit with your genius”. I realized just as I spoke, there was something hollow about that. Or did he just uncover a mirror in me?

Sahil was as calm as a meditating saint. “I don’t feel so. Nobody’s saving lives. We use scientific knowledge to try and treat the medical conditions we see, try to comfort the suffering with our kindness, and earn our bread under the continuous threat of something going terribly wrong. I have studied for fifteen years, and served the society back for more than that.”

We sipped our coffee in silence for some time. Hans Zimmer’s ‘Discombobulate’ was playing at that time in my chamber. Coincidences are too much sometimes. That heavenly symphony of all disconcerted instruments played by the expert musicians is one of the best things in human history I think (link below).

He smiled at the music. “I did not promise anyone to spend an entire lifetime doing what I don’t want to do anymore. I respect the gratitude I received, although it was rarely pure and sustained. I am sure many better than me will replace me and continue to treat patients who need care. I have never felt respected or accepted in the society, it was always with the caveat of ‘not all doctors are good’ that the people who I served looked at me, not the other way round.“

He became serious. “I don’t want now to work hard all day and night, be serious all the time, and step up my already busy schedule to reprove my abilities again and again. I am fed up of having to prove my worth and abilities to those who I do good to. When almost every illiterate as well as the educated questions my intentions, I don’t think anyone deserves an explanation. Half my time is spent now explaining the patient what is good for them, why they must do the tests and take the medicines, how I cannot predict all side effects or complications and be held responsible for them. I became a doctor to treat people, not to cover up for their suspicious ignorance with my knowledge and time”.

Somewhere deep, I understood him. But the ego of a doctor: that we have “accepted” the responsibility to serve prodded me to argue with him. I said so.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Who are we serving, Rajas?” He asked. “Society? Government? People? To what end? Where do you see this service either recognized, rewarded, acknowledged or reciprocated?. Then again, where does it all end? The line of unaffording poor is unending, the complaints of affording are mounting, and I seldom get a peaceful night’s sleep, inspite of a clear conscience. I will retire without enriching my own life”.

I remembered my favourite author Richard Bach’s view: “The simplest questions in life are also the most difficult ones to answer”.

My lawyer friend, Advocate Shrirang Choudhary, had time and again pulled me out of civil hospital Nanded. I had this habit of ‘living’ inside the hospital, beyong the 12 hours duty. I would just go home to take a bath and one time meal, then return and stay to assist every consultant I could: there was such a sense of fulfillment in learning!

Shrirang would pull me out, we went to the riverbanks and he ensured that we talked for a few hours anything except medical world. “You will kill yourself if you spend all your life in the obvious negativity that is the milieu of any hospital. There’s more to life than being a good doctor. Treat yourself to the immense beauty life has to offer. You have only one lifetime, and limited active years”.

I realized how much I had wanted to pursue a career in poetry, music, philosophy and adventure. It was with such ease and passion that I had given up all of it, proud that I will be saving lives. Now after 15 years of practice I saw another valid viewpoint.

“You get used to the satisfaction and happiness, the challenges and the victories in healthcare. I can understand that some may enjoy the repetition of the same for umpteen years: in fact an entire lifetime. But can you please also understand that to me it feels like an artist who paints only one big picture or sings only one song in his entire lifetime?”

I knew what he spoke about. I was suffering the same, but had avoided to think of it.

“Do what you want in your spare time. Reduce practice. You must take a break” I suggested, “A long break.”
To lighten up the mood, I added, “Although people will immediately say that some pharmaceutical sponsored your holiday and fun”.

“I wish I cared what people thought” he smiled, “And I don’t want to run away. I don’t want to do anything half hearted. I want to walk out gracefully. Like a saint or a seer walking out upon the world and going to the Himalayas. Why is that more respectable than a doctor wanting not to be a doctor?”
I did not have an answer.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to those who understood this post.

Hans Zimmer’s Discombobulate music video:

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R89UGKuyodk&index=2&list=FLHqY_yEsrcQFcedWLQUF2Pg)

Stop This Anesthesia

Stop This Anesthesia
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why so Doctor? Why cannot my child be like others?” asked the angry mother.

Just as I started to reply her, the patient: a 23 year old boy, went into a flurry of jerks. His body stiffened up, his eyes rolled up, and his face turned blue. He was already on the examination bed. Me and my student tried to support him there. We activated the code blue, just in case.
But the fit stopped. The boy came to, gradually. The nurse cleaned the bloody froth from his mouth. Heart rate and BP were normal now. Patient remained confused.

The mother, silently sobbing while patting his head, showed me the many large scars upon his face, head, and elsewhere. “He falls down many times every day and often injures himself. Can you imagine, doctor, what a mother’s heart feels to see her child bleeding every day?” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It was a case of hypoxic brain damage. The child was born in a village, the labour was prolonged and they could not reach a bigger hospital in time. If they had facilities, the child would have been normal today. Since birth, the child had had mild mental retardation and convulsions resistant to many medicines, They refused a surgery. I tried to counsel them. In many cases, we can control fits with a good combination of different medicines. But that takes time over a few months.

“We are farmers, doctor. We cannot stay home all day, we need to work to earn. The medicines are all so costly. I can sell everything to treat my son. But please tell me this will stop” the father’s voice was quivering.
It is easy to expect a doctor to detach himself emotionally from the patient, but then it is also like denying the patient empathy and understanding so crucial to their wellbeing.
“I will try my best, and I feel we can control the fits with medicines. Also, I can arrange for free medicines for your son whenever you cannot buy them. Never worry about my fees, I will be happy to treat him free. But make sure that his doses are never missed.” My teachers spoke through me.

“What after my death? Who will care for him? Who will bring him medicines? Who will ensure he takes them?” said the hefty man, and broke down. The proud feel it most difficult to declare their agonies. He tried to hide his face. The father and the mother sobbed on either side of the patient, who wasn’t yet alert enough to grasp it. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“There are some help communities and groups for epilepsy patients. We will enroll him into one. They will arrange for his medicines. I will also introduce you to some pharma companies who will give him free medicines as required”.
Then, pausing to realize the unasked question, I replied “And after me too, my students, colleagues or most doctors I know will never decline to treat him free. You just have to show them this note” .
I made a small note of such a request. I have never known any of my students or colleagues refuse to see a deserving patient free.

The tension in the room was melting. The parents had stopped sobbing. A possibility of hope and reassurance destroys the worst of darkness. The father folded his hands in gratitude, but couldn’t speak. The patient had a glass of water and they left.
But my mind was on fire again. Who’s guilty here?
Shall we blame fate for the blatant failures of a system? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Why didn’t their village have facilities to ensure good delivery? Why wasn’t it possible for them to reach bigger hospital in time? Who is responsible for millions of children who develop lifelong preventable illnesses just because of a cruel lack of healthcare infrastructure? Patients with heart attacks and strokes and cancers die everywhere everyday, unable to afford treatment or to reach hospitals in time.

In a country that needs serious improvement in almost every area of healthcare infrastructure, the whole focus is being directed at the repeated exams for doctor’s requalification.
Do we need it at all in a country that is grappling with critical shortage of doctors, and where we are promoting every other pathy to allopathy with a six month training? We need many care homes, support systems for patients who cannot afford medicines. Many more ambulances. Many more hospitals in remote areas, Many more qualified doctors to work there while being able to afford a dignified life.

But the only decisions being made are about more exams for truly qualified doctors: why? This tranquilizer to divert attention from the main issues that need correction is the worst treatment possible for Indian Healthcare. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Doctors are never defined by the examinations that they pass, being a doctor is far more than passing qualifying examinations. But who will educate those who never bothered to pass any dignified exams?

Just before inducing the anesthesia, the patient is told “You will feel sleepy now. Everything is ok. Take a deep breath”. With complete faith, the patient goes unconscious. It is the doctors who ensure he / she returns safe. Some rare unfortunate patients never know that they will never wake up, because there are things a doctor cannot control.

That unfortunate patient is just like the Indian Society today.
How qualified are the healthcare policy decision makers?
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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