Revered once, doctors today face brickbats
Aggrieved patients and their relatives in America may sue their doctors but in India they beat them up! Or perhaps attack and burn the hospital down. This disturbing trend seems to be on the rise in India. Such incidents are common, whether it’s in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore or Jalandhar. Just yesterday some relatives attacked a nursing home in Mumbai because a 10-month old child died there. This is the third such incident in Mumbai in the last fortnight.
It’s easy to blame our slow and tortuous criminal justice system for such mob fury…but the malaise runs deeper than that.
Our medical bodies are seen as being partial to doctors and people feel they will never get justice. It is difficult to prove a doctor’s negligence in court as the doctor community here is thickly bonded. Just about a decade ago, doctors resented even being questioned about their actions. Such arrogant attitudes can create suspicion amongst the public. Revered once, doctors today face brickbats.
The fact that a sizeable chunk of our citizens are not educated compounds the problem. Many semi-literate people believe that doctors are magicians who will cure the patient whatever the problem.
Its not just docs who suffer…mob justice is common in India
Whether its because of an eve-teasing incident or due to errant driving, there is always a chance that a mob can collect and people will take the law into their own hands. Why, a few years ago a mob lynched a criminal in court!!
How bad the situation gets generally depends on who is behind it…a group of ordinary citizens or a group of hoodlums with political backing. Political hoodlums were the ones who destroyed Singhania hospital – and all because their leader died there! Hundreds of people lost their livelihood. Recently in Mumbai a nursing home was attacked even though a baby was brought in dead…this makes one feel that the hooligans who attacked the nursing home could not be relatives of the baby.
Rioters are usually not punished either
And whether the damage is done by a furious public or hoodlums from a political party – the culprits are rarely brought to book. Another reason why mob justice prevails.
Coming back to the attacks on doctors, the only way to improve the situation as I see it (I am not even saying improve the criminal justice system because that is a given…and it will take years before it happens.) is to:
1) Appoint counselors in hospitals to counsel not just terminally ill patients, but also relatives of patients. Hospitals are supposed to hire counselors for this purpose but not all hospitals do. Perhaps that is why its the smaller hospitals and nursing homes who are most often targeted…but it could also be because of the lack of security at these places.
2) Hospitals should ensure that doctors are approachable and that they de-mystify the disease and spend time talking to the patient.
A study has revealed that relatives of severely ill patients undergo “symptoms suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD…” This same article (in the Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine) says:
The unexpectedness of an accident and the subsequent intensive care admission can be a stressful event for the relatives of trauma victims. Anxiety in the relatives during the hospitalization is understandable…various factors combine to create a psychologically devastating condition in relatives of ICU patients.
Major issues are lack of information about the nature of the illness, incessant reminders of the potential complication during consent for investigations, procedures or surgery, financial burden of hospitalization and most importantly restricted access to the patient.
Docs are busy but patients feel they are indifferent
A good number of doctors continue to maintain a distance from their patients and in my opinion this creates resentment amongst patients and their relatives. Doctors are often loath to explain the treatment and do not like to meet patients and relatives, specially after the operation is over…probably because they are busy or overworked. After all, they too are human. But patients without access to information and support are going to come to the worst conclusion. That the doctor is not bothered. There simply has to be some interface between the patient and the doctor…a psychologist is ideal. Its shocking but in hospitals today patient deaths are impersonal announcements.
The absence of transparency + a slow justice system + the weak persecution of rioters + the lack of communication between patients and doctors + the psychological disturbance of relatives of sick patients leads to a confrontation (often violent) between patients and doctors. Just blaming the law and the patients will not cure this problem.
(photo copyrighted to me and is for representational purposes only)
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