Medicine was once seen as a noble profession. The healing touch that banished all ailments, comforted those in pain and alleviated suffering. This image is slowly eroding. The doctors have now become the enemy. It may sound dramatic but the reality is such that we are hounded, persecuted and second-guessed for most of our professional lives that we lose focus on why we joined this profession the first place. I wrote this so the doctors can be heard and for you to know that we are not your enemy.
The Internet is not a recognized medical school
I have told my patients this countless times in the humblest of manner, sound and sensible medical advice comes from years of training and learning medicine and not from reading countless articles from the Internet.
The doctors cannot be overruled by your relative who feels insulin makes your diabetes worse because of an article he read on a celebrity wellness blog.
We should not dragged to refute the logic of your village elders who feel cessation of smoking brings more harm to your body and that in order to ’remain healthy’ you need to continue smoking as your lungs will repair and replace the unhealthy cells.
We have spent millions to show you that vaccination is safe yet you don’t trust us.
The doctors don’t hurt you on purpose
I was nauseated after reading an article recently regarding a teenager’s excruciating and horrifying experience while being treated for dengue fever in a hospital. The mother claimed that he was stabbed and prodded with needles while he was still awake and that his cries of pain brought tears to her eyes. It had all the makings of a sensational piece of news. Imagine having to send all patients to the operating theatre for blood taking under general anaesthesia!
Another mother claimed radiation from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on her child left him permanently disabled from the radiation although no one bothered to correct her that there was absolutely no risk of radiation and that her child had a genetic condition.
But the one that takes the cake would have to be the accusation of sexual misconduct against a young doctor for holding a male patient’s genitals while inserting a urinary catheter. The author had the audacity to publish the doctor’s name while making him look like a sex predator. I have just one question… “Where is he supposed to hold while inserting a urinary catheter? The belly button?”
The doctors don’t make money from your illness
We don’t pray for you to fall sick. And we are there for you when you do. You must have the mental finesse and the discerning capacity to know the difference. Although doctors in private practice make decent money, the same cannot be said of doctors working in government or charity hospitals.
Most doctors resist the temptation of private practice due to their sheer willpower to serve the needy when they can easily chart a better life for themselves.
We are not paid extra for every patient we admit or manage. The drug companies don’t give us a percentage of their profit every time we prescribe their medication. We earn a fixed income and we have learnt to live with it.
If we have to keep you in the ward or prescribe a different antibiotic for your chest infection it isn’t because we mean harm or we are trying to profit from your illness. It is simply because we are doing our job. To care for you. And please don’t make it impossible for us to do just that.
The doctors are human and they can make mistakes
I have no excuse for doctors who are repeatedly incompetent and pose a danger to their patients. They besmirch the name of all doctors and should be dealt with severely.
But spare a thought for those who make a mistake without meaning to. They have worked admirably for years in a thankless environment without expecting much and suddenly a solitary mistake and its reverberating effects define who they are. They will be publicly humiliated in a courtroom. People will snigger and talk behind their backs. Friends and colleagues will desert them. They will be branded as failures and continue to live on with this reality while saving countless other lives.
As much as it pains you please find it in your heart to forgive them especially if you know deep within you that it was a genuine mistake. It is too much to ask at times.
I remember a beautiful quote by Abraham Verghese on doctors;
” We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot. I grew up and I found my purpose and it was to become a physician. My intent wasn’t to save the world as much as to heal myself. Few doctors will admit this, certainly not young ones, but subconsciously, in entering the profession, we must believe that ministering to others will heal our woundedness. And it can. but it can also deepen the wound.”
Indeed, that’s a meaningful article every one should read. At the same time, I wish you wrote a post about the necessity of timely /effective communication between doctors and patients. Indifference by the doctors can adversely affect the medically fragile patients.
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