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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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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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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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The Higher Suffering

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Stuck in the heavy traffic due to rains, I tried to remain calm. The cellphone kept on ringing, patients who were waiting, those who wanted appointments, those who were to catch their ride out of station anxiously asked when will I reach. Some lost patience and raised voice. In addition, there were calls about the patients admitted in the hospital: critical decisions to be made, idiotic questions by insurance companies to be replied to. There were huge processions, the traffic was diverted, without any arrangements for ambulances. Impatient, aggressive and violent people is a reality on almost all Indian roads now. No one cares for law on the road. You are at the mercy of anyone who chooses to pick up a fight with you.

There were some issues at home too, the cook had called in sick, we had to do some emergency cooking. That had delayed my start.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At last, an hour late, I reached the OPD, and entered running. Faces with controlled anger greeted with cultured politeness. Prepared for bitter comments, I called in the first patient.

This was a free patient, she did not need a follow up. But being free, she visits almost religiously every month, whenever she has a fight with her husband. Sometimes, when the only guaranteed compassion is from a doctor, it can be misused. However, as I was late, I decided to respect their patience, and told them to visit a counselor. Nevertheless, my irritation heightened, that this added to the wait of other patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I certainly am impatient with meaningless waste of time, and sometimes the traffic, the sudden changes in schedules due to someone’s irresponsible behavior, and misuse of compassionate services bring me to the edge of a reaction. This was one such moment. My face must have become grim.

The next patient walked in, an elderly gentleman with Parkinson’s disease. He was accompanied by his wife. They were supposed to come back three months later, but had followed up early. I examined him, found him quite stable neurologically, but the usual twinkle in his eyes was absent. Even his usually smiling wife appeared lost. It must be the traffic, my late arrival or something likewise, I thought, and curbed my curiosity to ask them. Today was heavy and behind schedule, I must wind up fast. Yet, as I explained them that everything was stable and alright, that they need not worry, I noticed the unspoken uneasiness in their body language. A little reluctantly but keeping up with the expectation of my own heart, I asked them: “You look quite disturbed and stressed. Is anything the matter? I am sorry I came late today”.

“No, no doctor, it’s not that. But yes, he is stressed and disturbed said the wife, and looked inquisitively towards her husband. ”Shall I tell him?” she asked.

Looking down, hiding his face, the husband nodded.

“Doctor, we lost our only son ten only days ago. Someone killed him on the road. Some drunk goons dashed his car from behind, and when he got down to check the damage, they attacked him and hit him on the head with some rods. He was lying on the road for a long time, and by the time police took him to the hospital, he was gone. We came to know after a few hours. He was our only child, an engineering scholar who had returned to India with great dreams .”

The lady was silently weeping as she kept her emotions in control. The patient was sobbing, I called the receptionist to get a glass of water.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We have done so much for our town and the society” said the patient, “but now I feel it was all useless. No one is safe even on the roads. We see so many rules and laws broken, so many violent and aggressive people that it has become difficult to question anyone even when they misbehave”.

I had no words to pacify them. What can pacify the parents of a dead child, that too a victim lawlessness?

The receptionist called “Sir, the next patient is shouting” she said.

“Five minutes” I requested her.

“You are busy, doc, we will leave. But I brought him here only because he feels better when he meets you. Once you reassure him, he will feel a little secure. Even I feel better when I see you. Otherwise we sit at home just staring at each other’s sunken souls. We have no relatives”.

That was a bitter eye opener to me. They had chosen me to be their lifeline in the worst times of their life, and here I was, thinking about my worries, my time, and the inevitable small happenings that block the path of every working person every day. I had momentarily ignored the fact that I must still enter the hospital with a smile, push behind myself all the negatives that pull me down. For every patient here to see me comes with a hundred fears and a thousand expectations, the least I can do for them is be compassionate and reassuring, whatever may have happened till that moment.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“You may see many patients in a day and listen to their troubles, doc, but you are the only doctor your patient meets in a long time. I don’t know about you, but we always feel good when we see you”. The wife added.

Yes, I had heard that earlier, in my teacher’s cabin. Once a patient develops trust in his / her doctor, they look upon the doctor as one of the most reliable resource for courage, compassion and troubleshooting, even beyond the expertise of that doctor. As doctors, we must never forget this, and stand up tall above all our personal problems to be the supermen and superwomen, the Messiahs, the Saviors that we are expected to be. Law and some idiots do push a stick in our wheels, but then the patient is far above both. A patient’s suffering is always far above that of any doctor.

I stood up, held the patient’s hand, and reassured them: that they do have a relative here in Pune. “According to the Pune tradition”, I said, “one should offer tea only when the guests are half out of the door, but I will make an exception today .”

Having them sit in the next empty room, I proceeded with the OPD. Ordering tea for everyone in the OPD waiting room, I stole a few more minutes to calm the ruffled souls of those two, and asked them to see me again, whenever they wished.

As I returned late after dark, even through the rainy night, a sweet moonlight made the raindrops glow. Just like every doctor brings back the smiles to the burning hearts of their patients!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A hungry poor man named Atmaram went to a big hotel, had a nice big meal, and told he had no money to pay. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. He was released after a warning and a slap.

Next day he filled up petrol in his bike, and said he couldn’t pay. He was again beaten up, handed over to the police. Then he went to the medical shop, bought medicines and mineral water, ate the medicine, drank water from the bottle, and again said he couldn’t pay. He was now jailed for a week.

Next week his house was damaged by heavy rains, so he went and requested to be allowed to sleep in the house of the chief minister. He was arrested again, thrashed up.

As angry Atmaram shouted at the police, he was beaten up by them, another crime was added to his offences. In the court, Atmaram insulted the lawyers and judges and accused them of accepting bribes and charging too much. The judge punished him extra for his behaviour. Atmaram was angry and threw his shoe at the judge. His punishment was extended.

“You must respect the authority “ the court said.

“But I am poor, I need free food and petrol and medicines. I need sympathy too” Atmaram argued.

“You should have begged and applied for favours and eaten in places that provide charity meals. Petrol, however essential, has the same price for everyone. You can sleep on the footpath, and above all, you are not allowed rudeness and violence because you are poor and needy” The court said.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When released from the jail, Atmaram drank a lot of desi alcohol, had an accident and fractured many bones. He went to the best private hospital, got operated and refused to pay his bills that crossed one lac rupees. When the hospital insisted, the operating doctors were beaten up by Atmaran’s relatives, the hospital was vandalised, the police arrested the doctor who saved Atmaram’s life, the government closed down the hospital, while the media and the society kept villainising the entire medical profession.

The headlines next day reported the sympathy expressed uniformly by wag addicted tongues: some said the entire profession was tainted, some blamed the greed of the doctors, even some doctors desperate for attention shed crocodile tears about the ethics in this profession. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In the courtroom, during the trial, Atmaram sat facing the doctor, still heavily bandaged.

The hon’ble judge, kind but surrounded by security, told the doctor accused of negligence and malpractice in the court: “You as a doctor carry more responsibility for ethical behaviour upon your shoulders. You should never turn away the poor”.

The doctor, defending himself, asked “but Milord, doesn’t our constitution insist on equality? Why do you yourself or ministers get security but not the doctor? Why isn’t everyone supposed to stick to ethics in every profession including politics, police and judiciary? Why are others exempt? How do you explain beating up of doctors while also saying that the society treated them like gods?”.

There were no answers. The kind court asked if the doctor had to say anything else in his own defence.

The doctor said

“Yes Milord, but the real answers will hurt:

Jealousy against medical professionals across society and many other professions is a reality. Why else will anyone who couldn’t qualify to become a doctor try and teach the qualified doctors what they should do?”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“A culture of exploitation of non-votebank groups

and a complete failure of government healthcare with no one accepting responsibility is well known to everyone, but even judges have no courage to suo motu question this and correct it, even when they see the poor dying”. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“In a country with never ending poverty, how much free can a healthcare facility provide? For how long? This is already forcing closure of hospitals and exodus of good doctors out of the country.”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Milord, can you assure that every doctor will get his/ her fees as per his service to every patient, and if the patient can’t pay, that much charge will be exempted from the income tax of that doctor? How else do you except a doctor to meet his needs and dreams? Just because there are millions of poor patients, is the doctor’s life and hard work taken for granted? If there has to be financial sacrifice, why not have everyone contribute to it by creating a national health tax fund for treatment of poor patients? Why healthcare is subsidised only at the cost of a doctor?”

Just at this point, Atmaram, who sat in front of the judge, collapsed unconscious, almost blue black.

The shocked judge requested the doctor to examine him.

“He is no more” said the doctor.

“What could have happened ?” asked the kind but sweating judge.

The doctor told the court about three possible reasons. Two of them were scientific and medical: a sudden cardiac event or a large blood clot in the lungs common after fractures and trauma.

The third non-medical, unscientific cause made the Judge seriously ponder.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Will this court be now closed down, Milord? Will your efficiency be questioned, will you allow the relatives to attack you and understand their sad situation at the cost of your murder?”

“I understand what you mean” said the kind judge.

Needless to say, the doctor was released without a blame.

Can anyone please solve the mystery of the third non medical, unscientific possible cause of Atmaram’s death?

(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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New Medical Criminals

New Medical Criminals
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, Will My Dad Survive?” asked the anxious son.
“Very unlikely, we are trying our best though” said the desperate doc.
The highly qualified son had brought his father late night on a Friday, over 24 hours after he had developed a paralysis. Patient’s blood pressure was high, and heart status was fluctuating. An urgent MRI was advised.

“I will get the MRI done outside, I have a friend who gives me concession” said the son, and returned with an MRI after three hours, it did show a big clot in the patient’s brain. The son had insisted upon admission in the ward instead of a critical care unit, saying that his father “did not appear critical” to him and his family. “You want to admit in ICU because that will increase the bills. I know” he had bluntly told the doctor. The doctor had asked him to sign the refusal to admit in critical care, then sent the patient to the ward. Routine treatment for stroke and blood pressure was started, and tests sent.
“I will also get the medicines from outside the hospital, I have a pharmacist friend who gives me concession” he had told the doctor. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Early next morning, the father developed chest pain, and the cardiologist advised immediate stenting, as he was developing a block in the heart. . The son had insisted on using the cheapest stent. Although the angioplasty went well, the patient developed a bleeding in the brain, a complication known in stroke cases. He became unconscious. As the bleeding caused increased swelling and pressure upon the brain, a neurosurgeon was called in to decompress the brain (take off a small portion of the skull bone, to relieve pressure upon the brain). The surgery is usually safe, but the condition in which it is done is usually ultra-critical, thus risk to life is high. The son asked for a guarantee for a good outcome, and was explained that there cannot be any guarantees in medicine. He then refused the surgery, saying “I have read that surgeries are done without necessity by scaring the patient”.

Within hours, the patient’s brain swelling increased to the level of almost a certain fatal outcome. In the evening the son said he was willing for the decompression surgery, it was almost too late. The Neurosurgeon still operated him late night to make a last attempt to save life. After the surgery, the father was shifted to the recovery room. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It was here that the son had asked the doctor: “Will my father survive, doctor?”.
The doctor politely replied: “Sir, you have all the reports, you know what is his medical condition, so you can now google search and also ask your political leaders through their famous apps what will be the outcome, what is the next step”.

“But you are the treating doctor, you know better. You are like God for us” said the desperate son.

The doctor uttered the only two words that the doctor would want to use after hearing this:

“I Wish”.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the government and in the Media has become a critic of the extremely overburdened Indian medical profession made up of some of the best doctors in the world. Those who cannot run their own govt. hospitals well, cannot provide quality heatlthcare to the taxpayer, those who have corruption seeping through almost every office they own, those in whose authority (read govt. hospitals) hundreds of patients die helpless without care, compassion or treatment, those who suspend peons, ward boys, nurses and doctors for deaths that result from inadequacies like lack of essential facilities at hospitals owned by the govt., are out telling the world how Indian medical practitioners are corrupt, instead of praising how they shoulder what the govt. fails to recognize as its own responsibility: healthcare for the majority.

There are bad doctors, bad diagnostic centers, and bad pharma companies, protected by politicians and working on ‘lowest quality-lowest price’ principle. There indeed are “profit sharing set ups”. Among these, if a good doctor / specialist advises the patient to go to a particular doctor or lab or choose a particular brand, the patient automatically presumes that that the doctor is looking for extra money. So most doctors now tell the patient to “go wherever they want” for specialist consultation or tests. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When I must refer a patient to someone, the only thought in my mind is to offer the patient the best: because the patient’s trust is most important for me. This is how most doctors think, every doctor wants to make a good reputation, which is impossible without also good outcomes. I need to be able to discuss and be comfortable with that specialist, so we can plan best for the patient. If a suspicion about financial misappropriation looms over everything that a doctor does, it is difficult for any doctor to work. There must be accountability, but for both: the treatment and the doctor’s time, energy and skill. The doctor must be able to choose the best for the patient and the patient should have more trust in the doctor than the rumors. .

The last person who should play with trust and faith in other professions is a politician.

The patient did not survive. Neither the leaders who spoke lose and caused paranoia to affect the outcome, or the son who delayed admission, the pharmacy that sold cheapest drugs, nor the family that refused a life saving surgery had any blemish upon their reputation.

It was easier for all of them to blame the doctors who tried hardest for the patient.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Thank You Dr Nusli Ichaporia for the technical assistance.

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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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