Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Why don't doctors stand up for themselves ?

The press has had a field day writing about doctors in Indore who allegedly perform surgery on helpless little girls to change them into boys. This started off with a badly researched article in the Hindustan Times; and has become a big issue with everyone from the Prime Minister's Office downwards jumping onto the bandwagon, clamoring for an inquiry . In their pursuit of their ten minutes of fame and a few columns of press publicity, activists are happy to talk at length about the stringent measure which need to be taken to book the guilty doctors and punish them, so these innocent girl children can be protected.

What amazes me is how willing we are to assume that Indian doctors are crooked criminals who are happy to perform mutilating surgery just to earn a few bucks ! Is this really the image we have of the medical profession in India ? Isn't your doctor a professional you can trust ? Someone you can go to when you are ill , with the hope that he will use his skills and expertise to heal you ? Then why are we so willing to jump to the conclusion that the professional peers of your doctors will agree to perform such horrible acts ? Don't we believe that doctors have a conscience and that they are ethical ?

Sadly, because of the propaganda which has been drummed by the media ad nauseam ( for example, about how doctors are killing off female fetuses by the millions to cause the sex ratio to drop) , we seem to have lost our common sense. We no longer look at these issues logically and dispassionately, because they are framed in a way which arouses strong emotions against the medical profession, which has failed to defend itself.

Ideally, reporters should contact medical associations and medical college professors so they can understand the medical background accurately. This will allow them to make sense of the story so that they are not tempted to sensationalise it, just to get onto the front page with a "breaking story". Sadly, most doctors are scared of the press ( for good reason) and are too busy taking care of patients to talk to reporters. This is why reporters resort to doing phone interviews with certain doctors ( who want to be quoted in the press as experts, to bolster their egos) to get sound bytes which they can manipulate and print, to suit their ulterior motives.

All of us have our own personal doctors. Dear Reader, do you think your doctor would be capable of performing these kinds of acts ? If not, then why are we so willing to assume that there are enough bad doctors out there who will do so ?

Isn't it far more likely that the reporting is erroneous and that the facts have been distorted by careless journalists ( don't forget, reporters have their own vested interests too ) ?

When the press portrays doctors as criminals, not only do they end up demoralising all doctors , they create irreparable damage to the trust which patients used to put in their doctors. Once this trust is destroyed, the doctor-patient relationship then starts spiralling down a vicious cycle, from which it will never recover !
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