Monday, June 11, 2012

Why has the reputation of doctors taken such a beating ?

Once upon a time, the medical profession used to be a considered a noble one. Doctors were highly regarded and were often revered. Today, however, the newspapers are full of the misdeeds of doctors.  Doctors are being treated as potential criminals, out to abort female fetuses , in order to make a profit. Aamir Khan’s talk show , Satyamev Jayate, featured angry patients who provided many instances of how corrupt and unethical doctors are – and to what lengths they will stoop in order to make a quick buck.
Reading all these negative articles about doctors breaks my heart. Most doctors are good human beings and are trying to do their best in order to get their patients better. They spend many years slogging and mastering difficult technical skills , so that they can become competent professionals. I am sure most readers will agree that their personal doctor is a good person.

Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples in any profession  and this is as true for medicine as it is for any other profession. However, just the existence of the fact that there are a few bad doctors is not what the problem is. The problem is that doctors have failed miserably in policing themselves and pruning these bad apples.

Most doctors are aware of the ethical standards and technical competence of their colleagues. They know which doctors are good - and which ones are terrible. Unfortunately, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence  and doctors will not talk ill about other doctors in public. When doctors converse amongst each other, they will often describe how atrocious the behavior of some of their colleagues is – but they will not bring this to public attention, out of a misplaced sense of professional loyalty.

Unfortunately, this “ see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil “ attitude has now come back to haunt doctors. In the past, society expected the medical profession to police itself . Since doctors have failed so miserably in doing so , it has now decided to allow policemen to perform this role.

Unfortunately, this is not something which the policeman can do very well , as a result of which this mess is going to get a lot worse in the future. Must policemen will treat every person they see as a potential criminal - and this is exactly what they are going to start doing with doctors now. While it's true that doctors are going to pay the price, patients will suffer even more.

This has already started to happen. Thanks to the PNDT Act, many  doctors are refusing to do ultrasound scans for pregnant women , because it's become too much of a hassle to comply with all the technical minutiae of the Act. This means that pregnant women are going to be deprived of one of the most useful advances in medical technology,  as a result of which their medical care is going to suffer.  What a shame !
One we start treating all doctors as potential crooks, this will start becoming a self fulfilling prophecy.

Patients will stop trusting doctors and doctors will start over-testing and over-treating to protect themselves. If anything goes wrong ( whether or not the doctor’s treatment was correct or not), the patient and his family will suspect that the doctor was negligent and will want to exact revenge. This will setup a negative vicious cycle which will quickly spiral out of control.

Trust between doctors and patients  is vital . Treating all doctors as potential crooks will result in a  breakdown of the doctor patient relationship. This will end up reducing the efficacy of medical care, and all of us will suffer !

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:05 AM

    Dear Dr,

    Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate is turning into an emotional crap. Projecting doctors as felonious is very dangerous to the society as a whole. I saw a video which you have uploaded in your blog, which shows two doctors beaten-up by the common public. I was shocked by the violence and the hatred shown towards doctors. I did cringe watching it. I have to switch it off unable to bear the atrocity. Satyameva Jayate organizers should realise that sensationalizing the programme without offering a just view can improve their TRP rating but will not do any good to the society, infact they are sowing seeds for more violence! When patients talk about their side of the story, doctors should be given an opportunity to provide their defense. It is best to avoid such topics if they cannot deal it in a rational way. It appears very funny when Aamir Khan becomes emotional with tears. How could such an emotional person carry out the show in a rational way?

    Why a noble profession came to such a stand-point? The answer is simple-greediness of doctors and ignorance of patients. Doctors need to be more ethical, if someone desires more money they can always select a profession other than being a physician. Dr, being greedy is not OK and money in excess is evil. Greediness and money in excess will breed immoral, unethical acts. For patients as you say basic education and information therapy is a must!


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