Monday, December 05, 2011

Why do doctors charge so little ?

If this question causes you to raise your eyebrows, let me rephrase this.

Why do lawyers charge far more than doctors do ? Both medicine and law are learned professions which have been around for centuries. It takes years of education to qualify as a doctor or a lawyer; and both are service professions.

However, lawyers charge disproportionately more than doctors do. Many lawyers charge as much as Rs 1 lakhs just to appear in court, whether or not they actually argue the case . Moreover, they have a much cushier lifestyle, with very little risk. They work fixed hours and do not have to deal with emergencies. The only skills they need are to draft and to argue, unlike doctors who have to learn how to operate as well !

Even though doctors slog much harder, they still charge much less than lawyers do. Their training is far more grueling and takes much longer. They have to be available at all hours - and are at high risk for being sued , in case something goes wrong ( even if it's not in their control).
Even though they perform a far more useful function than lawyers ( just think - if you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather have a doctor as a companion, or a lawyer ?) , they get paid a pittance. To add insult to injury, patients are always unhappy when paying the doctor and they pay his fees very grudgingly. However, when they need to pay their lawyer, most clients may much larger amounts, without complaining !

Why is this so ? Do we expect doctors to be superhumans , who are meant to slave for their patients without expecting any tangible financial returns ?

I think the reasons are primarily because of the differences in the training doctors and lawyers receive. Lawyers start of by fighting cases at which millions of rupees are at stake. They are used to dealing with large sums of monies - and are quite happy to charge a sizable chunk of this as their fee. After all, if they will millions for their client, why should their client mind giving them a small percentage of this as their fee ? Also, clients who win cases don't mind paying their lawyers, since he has earned so much money for them.

Doctors, on the other hand, are never taught how to handle money or to collect their fees. They are used to working for free during their residency , and never learn to charge what the worth of their services really is ! After all, if doctor saves your life, how do you put a monetary value on the service he has provided ? If I give an infertile couple an IVF baby , whatever they pay me will always be a small fraction of the real worth of the service I have provided them with !

Sadly, many doctors still feel that their ethical standards demand that they should be able to rise "above" the filthy lucre of money. I think this is incorrect. People only value what they have to pay for - and the more they pay, the more they value the service ! Today, doctors take on all the risk of treating patients, without being adequately compensated for their time, expertise and effort.

This is not a sustainable system. People respond to economic incentives; and the next generation of smart students will no longer want to become doctors - they will all become lawyers ! Serves us right !

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2 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:09 PM

    I strongly disagree with you. You can never compare the profession of a doctor and lawyer. I agree that doctors should be paid more than any other profession. BUT in a society like India where the economic status of every human varies too much, should doctors work for money alone? Just because a person is having money he can get the best medical treatment and other people who are poor cannot even afford a decent treatment shows the pathetic condition of our society. Is the life of a poor person any lesser than a rich man? No profession should be connected with money especially a doctors. Every profession has its own moral values and being doctor demands a lot of morality and dedication.


    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick

    - HIPPOCRATIC OATH


    Should a doctor be a person doing free service to the society? Not really but they should realise the thin line which demarcates greediness and self-sufficiency.

    A doctor should understand that he is the only person who is wholeheartedly given a place equal to GOD in the society. Being wealthy I can afford IVF treatment and I will be very happy to pay a doctor like you whatever you demand for. Not only I am ready to pay for you but you will always be remembered by us with lots of love and affection. I have never come across a person who has kept their lawyers name for their children but I know people who have kept their doctors name for their children.

    If a doctor comes across a poor person, who cannot afford an expensive treatment but he is badly in need of that treatment to save his life should the doctor treat him or not? I have seen medical practitioners in village taking money only from the rich for treatment and the poor people are treated for free. If a poor village medical practitioner can empathize with his patients why can’t affluent doctors do so?

    Today doctor profession is connected directly to money-making. People who come into this profession should have the passion to serve human kind and not the passion for money. After all entire world has become a better place to live in by the sacrifices made by few people. Fortunately or unfortunately doctors fall into the category of people who have to be altruistic.

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  2. this is a huge question from our side also why they doing like this but nice post on this

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