Medicine – An art misunderstood by masses.

Medicine – An art misunderstood by masses.

We should be concerned not only about the health of individual patients, but also the health of our entire society.

Ben Carson

The other day, I was walking down the hallway of my hospital, thinking about my next case in the OR, when I overheard the next of kin of a patient – ” The doctors here are so rude. They don’t even talk properly. They just want to make money.” It is not uncommon to come across generic anger of patients and their attendants, who think of doctors as a currency making machinery. But that night at 2AM when I went ahead to operate my case, I was rather disturbed by these words.

I could have been in bed at that time. I didn’t know the patient. I hadn’t even seen his face more than twice. And personally, it was a very routine surgery, I wouldn’t gain any technical, professional, or financial benefit out of it. If something goes wrong in the surgery, the guilt will be paramount for me to live with. Sometimes, you don’t get over a disastrous complication all your life. You get nightmares. Sometimes you avoid doing the same surgery again.

Why should I, ruin my young years of life, sleep and peace of mind for a society, which in the end thinks I loot them?

WHY DOES A YOUNG KID BECOME A DOCTOR?

Usually, the brightest kids in our class in school went on to become doctors. If we assume that our smartest children are taking up a profession to earn money, then we need to question what has our society degenerated into?

I became a doctor, primarily because I was infatuated with treating patients. I had seen my parents do it, and I used to love the satisfaction my mom had, once her patients were doing fine. She would literally jump around in happiness, make special food for the night and even sometimes get us a new toy to play, just because she was overjoyed and satisfied with her patient doing well. I always wanted to experience that feeling.

THEN WHY DO PEOPLE FEEL DOCTORS CHARGE A LOT?

Certainly, doctors are humans. Who doesn’t want to have a good lifestyle, live in a good house, or drive a good car? An artist charges 5000$ for his painting, a restaurant chef charges 500$ for his exquisite delicacies, a musician charges 10,000$ for his concerts, then why can’t a doctor charge a fee for helping you improve or save your life?

Surgery, per se, is artistic. You enter the OR, silence all around. Then you get scrubbed and prepare yourself, physically and mentally for the surgery. Run through the steps in your head. Think of the possible complications and precautions. Pray to god everything goes well. And then the nursing officer hands you the knife.

You run your knife, on the stretched skin, delicately. The blade so sharp, it cuts through all the layers of superficial skin. Blood flows and the surgeon in you is brought to life with the sight of the first few drops. Surgery after this is a conglomeration of subconscious actions and active instant decisions. The procedure, if done well, is a boon for two lives – the patients and the surgeons.

Every artist and his art should be respected.

WHAT ABOUT THE HOSPITALS CHARGING A HELL LOT?

Corporate hospitals are business houses. Run by MBA’s and marketing teams, they are agencies to mint money and earn profit out of insecurities of people – the patients and the doctors.

Such hospitals are at the middle ground of hospitality and healthcare. Do you want to live in a five-star room? Get poached eggs and hot coffee for breakfast? And a club sandwich as your evening snack? And maybe pasta for dinner? Healthcare will almost be the same as any other place. But for the extra hospitality, these hospitals will eat a chunk of your bank account.

Not okay with that? Come to the government-owned hospitals. Delayed blood reports, standard food everyday, common wards, no special treatment, are the norm there. But yes, healthcare would be almost the same.

But thinking, that when a patient is dying, the doctor sits in his room and counts the money he has earned from that patient – is too far fetched.

For me and for every doctor whatsoever, the patient, and his life are the only priorities.

SO, WHERE DOES THE PROBLEM LIE?

Doctors degrade themselves and their community.

They criticize each other and play pity politics. Before we talk about the heroics our fellow doctors have been doing, we definitely find a reason to criticize and bring them down. We need to stop. We need to respect ourselves and uphold our profession and art.

The broken healthcare system

This comes a close second. Healthcare in India has been in ruins since times immemorial. Nothing has been done for primary healthcare or for the poor of our country. Healthcare is easily accessible only for the privileged. The poor still have to travel miles or pay a fortune to get basic care. And who bears the brunt of it? If you are not happy with the services of your airplane operator on a flight, you don’t go and drag the pilot out and beat him. Akin, don’t harass your doctor. We did not choose the profession to pay the price for a broken system.

A recent strike by Doctors all over India, pertaining to incessant violence against doctors as well as the NMC bill. Image source – The New Indian Express

Personal baggage of patients

Anyone by the deathbed of their relatives, get overwhelmed with emotions. I have seen patients feel bad, get devastated, feeling they did not care enough when their relatives were alive as well as relatives who are happy finally the old man is in his grave. The easiest target, to get out the anger and frustration at such moments are the doctors. Beat them, harass them, foul mouth them that they only treat patients who pay well and whatnot. Human emotions are a nasty thing. Again, facing such situations are a by-product of our profession, but do we deserve it?

Food for thought?

After years of training, slogging long draining hours, putting our patients before us, missing meals to missing the most important family functions and friends marriages are commonplace in any doctor’s life. The guilt of a patient being mismanaged, some dying right infant of us, some dying even after our best efforts to give them a few years are some of the hardest things to go through in our lives. We don’t crib about it. We are proud of it and take it in our stride.

But what does the society give us in return?

Why is the rate of doctors going out of India on a constant rise?

Why do doctors have one of the highest rates of suicide?

Even though we have the most competent healthcare setup ( at least in the cities) at almost 1/10th the cost of the world, still the society feels we loot them?

Life expectancy has almost tripled in our country since independence, then why is the life expectancy of a doctor is almost 10 years less than the general population?

And to add to all this, Government has recently said in the supreme court that doctors who are serving the patients suffering from COVID-19 are responsible for their own safety!!!!!!

It won’t be long before we start seeing a dearth of people choosing this profession for themselves as well as their children. No-one wants to imagine such a day.

Be empathetic towards your doctor. We are humans.

I wrote a similar answer on Quora. The question was a little different, but it did hit a chord with what we constantly face and feel. Do give it a read and chip in on what you feel about this issue.