When I entered medical school way back two and a half decades ago, there was a ripple of sensation that ran through my entire clan. In minutes one could notice the change in the attitudes when suddenly people started taking this bubbly school girl seriously. Some skeptics even came up to ask if the admission was actually for ‘doctory’ or some other para-med course in the prestigious Lady Harding Medical College, New Delhi.
The day came when I finally arrived for the first day of our med school. The group of lucky 90 were huddled into an auditorium for the introductory lecture. The place was an antiquated auditorium which looked more like a Colloseum with walls and seats made of seasoned dark teak-wood. The college had its foundation stone laid in March 17, 1914 and the venue spoke volumes of the time it was built.
The Hippocratic Oath was read out to us, and then the principal of the school gave us a short but touching speech. From what I faintly remember she began with …..
“I congratulate you all…. In our community doctors are considered ‘next to God’. I wish that you keep this key fact in the back of your mind all your life, from today onwards. Yes we are all human beings, we also have our aims and aspirations, but our patients have far more expectations from us than from anyone else. You may not find it so pleasant now, but my advice would be that your mannerism, your thoughts, your words, your dress up and the body language—and in summary your whole life, should reflect the respect and dignity that this noble profession is so worthy of…..”
My experience in practice all these years stands testimony to the respect and love that one gets from one’s patients. They come to us for healing but they heal us too, in return, with the trust with which they put their lives in our hands.
And it is not just the few inquiries into the medical history, or the physical examination or the prescription of few drugs which heals the patient. But trusting the patient’s problems as real ( even if you may find them very trivial or exaggerated), paying proper attention to their concerns, adequate eye contact and pleasant body language act as invisible factors which do wonders in creating a healthy doctor-patient relationship.
As was said centuries ago, it holds true even till date…
“‘Medicine is not merely a science but an art.The character of the physician may act more powerfully upon a patient than the drugs employed.” Philipus Aroleus Paracelsus
After all this grandiose image of this noble profession in the back of my mind, my heart bleeds and winces in pain when I see in my day today life, with what indignation and disrespect the general public has for the image of doctors.
Calling them butchers, killers, criminals….
Gosh! I always lived in an illusion that politicians were the most maligned of all the people. But today I stand with the revelation that doctors are even considered worse.
Irrespective of the current situation (of strike by young doctors in Punjab,Pakistan), the whole scenario pushes my head to think of why has this situation been reached?
There are black sheep in every profession and such have crept in our profession too. It does not limit to the doctors only in our land but all over the world where there are people who consider medicine less of a noble profession and more of a lucrative business. But then so has become the medical education. Nowadays, on the footsteps of the expense it takes to study medicine in the West, the private colleges have cropped up in the subcontinent, which charge hefty fees to make a doctor ( in parallel to the govt. medical colleges which have now become a minority).
The exorbitant costs have made the education ’purchasable’ and now it is not just the ‘worthy’ but the ‘affording’ too who enter these private medical schools.
Many leave for greener pasture in the West or the Middle East where they are well paid and well respected. Those who stay behind either by destiny or by their freewill, need to earn a decent amount to at least make their ends meet.
The irony is that once they pass out, irrespective of graduating from the private or govt colleges, they are paid the lowest of possible wages in lieu of their hard work in the past, present or future.
This has dissuaded the bright youngsters especially the boys from the medical profession , opting for anything else instead. And those enamored who do enter, regret later. The smarter ones branch out into pharmaceutical industry, hospital administration, civil services etc to make their lives easy and better, financially.
Irony still, when these youngsters who now come out to ask for their dues, get mauled physically and psychologically by the authorities as well as the general public. And they give them all kinds of moral lessons by reminding them of their noble profession or Hippocrates Oath.
And of the age-old rhetorics of ‘work for humanity not money’, ‘you work for others, not yourself’, ‘keep killing for greed’ to doctors.
Is this not moral policing too? And every ‘enlightened seems to have become a Mullah against the doctors today !!!
True the doctors need to be doctors even beyond their working hours, but if the youngsters who aspire to lead decent lives do not get enough to even feed their families, how can you expect them to do their duties with full heart and soul. Like all of us they are human beings too, not angels.
It was really painful to hear that the situation has become so desperate that even some emergency work was also closed down. On talking to a young soon-to- be- doctor, Atif Ali from Services Inst. of Medical Sciences, for staying HUMAN, he replied:
“its hard to stay human in a jungle. . . :-)….”
“I am sorry , but i personally believe that we shd be tagged as human mechanic n our job shd b just fixing their prblms . . . .nt getting emotional or flattered by dis term maseeha. . . !
Down vid maseehai of such nation 4 vich i hv to burn my nights stdying, work on holidays, be on d frnt line in disaster , get abused n beaten by patient attndnts n even aftr all that. . Have to look up towards ma parents to send money 4 ma expnses instead ov being support to em.”
Unfortunately when this desperate situation arises, how can one expect them to be the ‘next to Gods’ for the patients?
Ultimately, with or without the support of the people, I hope and pray that they get most of their justified demands met.
I am afraid that if the doctors are not given their due, less and less will smart minds be willing to enter this field or willing to stay in our country.
I have no qualms in saying that if you will pay peanuts, all you will get is monkeys.