© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir my brother is critical. The doctors are not telling us anything about recovery. They don’t even reply to our questions about when the patient will recover. They are so inhuman! They should let the patient die if he is not going to come out of this illness, but they give us false hope that he may recover” said the friend, whose language precluded decency.
Having them seated, I requested details from patient’s friend accompanying the brother.
The patient, now in late thirties, had married against his family’s wish. He was boycot by his family, and started living with his wife. After a few days the couple started having quarrels due to his drinking habit. He frequently beat her up, and she often made a public scene of their private issues. He left her one day and returned to his family. His parents and brothers continued to taunt him. One day he was beaten up by his brothers, and in a fit of anger he drank rat poison.
He started vomiting after a few hours, became unconscious, and was taken to a quack who forced some magic potion in the patient’s mouth. Just after that, the patient had convulsions. “Take him to a doctor” said the quack. That’s when they went to a nearby rural hospital, which had no doctor. When they reached the city, patient was almost comatose. They took him to a low-cost multispecialty hospital. Upon admission his blood pressure was not recordable, breathing was almost nil, and heart was already beating too slow. The doctors there had acted fast and stabilised him, but by then his brain had suffered severe damage due to low blood pressure and very low oxygen.
In a week, he was stable, breathing on his own, opening eyes but unable to recognise anyone. Recovery in such cases is always very slow, unpredictable, and mostly incomplete. He needed supervision and nursing care, that was being done. Doctors were tired of the incessant repetitions of same questions: from relatives, politicians, and many other doctors. There’s a limit to how much compassion can one offer to its abuser. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I did what was the obvious thing to do: reassured the relatives that the treating doctors were doing a good job, that things were unpredictable in such cases, and that they should have trust in the ability of those qualified doctors to handle a case whom they had rescued from an almost certain death.
What ate my heart away was the blatant, glaring line of facts here: the family was not kind to him, the wife wasn’t kind to him, his relatives took him to a quack and wasted most precious time that could have saved a lot of brain damage, the quack used something that dangerously worsened the patient’s health, the rural government healthcare was inadequate, but none among the family or politicos ever said a word or questioned that. As if they were all exempt from humanity, and nothing about his health was any of their responsibility. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The doctors at that low-cost hospital, with minimum amenities, had still managed to save the patient, they did an excellent job, but were still labelled inhuman – just because everyone expected a full recovery of the patient, as if it was worthless to save a life unless it was complete, quick and cheap!
Indian doctors are already considered among the best all across the globe, we keep abreast of all advances in our respective fields by studying every day, we are easily available to everyone who needs our skill and opinion, we work far more than our colleagues in developed world, yet we are the most stressed, criticised, villainised and also poorest paid class of doctors, living under threats from one and all. Indian healthcare infrastructure is atleast fifteen years behind the developed world, it is us doctors who carry that burden of patient’s (googled) expectations upon our shoulders. It is frustrating to deal with the trustless, paranoid interactions with the relatives of those very patients whom we are trying to save.
What kills us most is the indecent, aggressive, violent way in which most doctors are abused in our country. Even the patients who do not recover completely speak in a vengeful, angry and complaining way to their doctors rather than any trace of gratefulness for whatever recovery was achieved.
The only way to possibly change this scenario is to change the society. Yes, to prefer a developed society where common sense and decency are not optional.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande