In defence of doctors: How short-sighted and populist politics is wreaking havoc with healthcare today

By Dr. Amrinder Bajaj
The writer is Unit Head, obstetrics and gynaecology, Max Shalimar Bagh and Pitampura.
First Fortis, then Max and now BL Kapoor Hospital have fallen prey to slander. All three hospitals serve thousands of patients everyday in Delhi and NCR. The latest video doing the rounds is of Bobby Kataria and his mob laying siege to Balaji Action Hospital – 1.9 million FB views in 48 hours – to exploit the death of a six-day-old baby, probably for political gains.
Hospitals have become arenas for populist political battles where slogans and protests, threats and abuses are hurled at random. They are ignited and stoked by an irresponsible section of media that sensationalises without verifying facts.
Much hue and cry was made of the ‘live baby’ wrapped callously in a plastic bag at Max Shalimar Bagh when it was a mere five months (22 weeks) old fetus that had negligible chances of survival. Such fetuses can go into a state of suspended animation for a varying period of time and breathe again though, eventually they do not survive. An instant judgment without a hearing or trial was passed. As a result two doctors lost their jobs and Max lost its licence.
To the tension of an extremely stressful profession – sleepless nights and hungry days, a negligible family life that strains the atmosphere at home – are now added humiliation and threats from the very people we serve to the best of our ability.
A doctor was almost strangulated with a telephone cord because he was unable to revive a road accident victim – who was brought in dead! In another hospital a lady doctor’s clothes were torn by angry relatives because, on her fell the unfortunate duty of imparting to them the news of their relative’s death.
Do patients come to hospitals to buy immortality? It is as if the fit and healthy and not the ailing and diseased come here and doctors are waiting with scalpels to slit their throats and pockets. State of art equipment, super specialists, scrupulous cleanliness and care all cost money, and those who come to high end hospitals must be prepared to pay. They must also understand that medicine is not math and there is no guarantee for success in every case.
The fragile but extremely essential equation of trust is gone. The doctor sees a potential predator in the garb of a patient and his family, while the patient sees a potential murderer and dacoit in the doctor – ‘sab chor hai saale’ is the prevailing view of doctors. This is a sorry state of affairs for our nation and its citizens.
Despite the palpable antagonism, hospitals are flooded with patients. Despite a severely strained doctor-patient relationship, we quietly go on doing what we have been trained to do. But for how long can anyone, more so a doctor with the responsibility of another’s life on his shoulders, function in an atmosphere of hostility and fear?
In my grandfather’s time (he too was a doctor), patients died because it was God’s will and survived because of the doctor’s expertise. Nowadays, the only cause of death seems to be medical negligence.
Ayn Rand aptly describes today’s situation in her ‘The Atlas Shrugged’: “‘I quit when medicine was placed under State control some years ago,’ said Dr Hendricks. ‘Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I could not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun.’”

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