When a Patient Dies, Why is a Doctor Beaten?

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KO Photo: Abid Bhat

Dr. Faizan Shah

THE recent incidents of life-threatening assault on doctors by some goons, though not new by any means, are certainly disheartening and disturbing. Why does a patient die? The reasons can be many. Lack of proper infrastructure, unavailability of an ambulance to transfer the patient, lack of life saving drugs, lack of trained medical staff and so on. I didn’t include the most common reason cited by the Kashmiri attendants, ‘negligence by doctors’ in the list because negligence is a qualified term and more importantly no doctor in his right senses would want to kill a patient intentionally. If only I could anticipate high standards of understanding and acceptance among the common masses, would I include the actual reason for death which is ‘death is inevitable’. Let that sink in. No matter how much we advance technologically, we will not be able to conquer death. Everyone has to die one day, you and me included. When people die in hospitals, you beat doctors. But when they die at home, do you beat yourself, your wife, your kids, your neighbors. Exactly who do you take out your frustration on.

I just saw a video of a man sharing his anguish regarding the delay in getting the dead body of one of his relatives, pending COVID testing. I was feeling his pain till he uttered this sentence ‘kisi doctor ka sar phoda hai. Lekin is hisab se theek hi kiya hai’. I cannot express the amount of disgust I felt looking at his face and suddenly the feeling of sympathy vanished. This statement was disgusting for me but not demoralizing. What is demoralizing for me is that in a place like Kashmir where scores of relatives flock your house for an issue as minor as vomiting or diarrhea, a top administrator from SMHS comes to a doctor in casualty who has just survived an attack on his life and suffered seizures and has the cheek to tell him ‘ye sab toh hota rehta hai’. It kills the compassion inside me as well as the little respect, if any left, for our administrators.

As a doctor, I don’t expect any patient to thank me or think high of me. Let them call us killers or donation doctors or murderers or whatever they wish, on facebook and behind our backs. The problem I have is with anyone physically harming a doctor and with the failure of the administration to ensure the safety of doctors.

Don’t think of yourselves as heroes or brave people when you attack doctors in groups of 10-20 in the dark of the night. You don’t do it out of angst or concern for the health of your patient. You are just a frustrated person who seeks gratification by taking out your frustration on a vulnerable section of the society. When was the last time you attacked some policeman who was taking undue advantage of his power or a clerk who wouldn’t forward your file without some emoluments or some politician who consumed the funds that were meant for the healthcare facilities that don’t exist now.

Recognize yourself for who you are: a coward.

And the administration should also recognize themselves for what they are: a failure.

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