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July 1, 2022 7:18 pm

In Sickness and In Health: Celebrating Doctors

Kashmir Observer File Photo

On International Doctor’s Day 2022 let’s pledge to put more faith into our frontline warriors – in sickness and in health

DIGNITY of labour and acknowledging the role played by each individual in their professional capacity indicates the societies’ heightened sense of respect for its professionals and at the same time its possibilities to excel in various fields of life. While all professions command respect and dignity, there are some professions which stand exceptionally tall in comparison to others because of the additional responsibility they shoulder and the critical role they play in our society.

From time immemorial, teachers and doctors have been receiving added guard of honour and their role has often been described as the most crucial and indispensable in any social setting. While teachers were accorded the responsibility of ensuring societies’ intellectual and literary well-being, doctors took upon themselves the task of ensuring the overall medical well being of individuals and societies.

The passage of time accompanied by population explosions here and there, now and then across the globe have put the entire medical fraternity in situations of extreme stress, multiplying their responsibilities and adding to the list of their professional demands. The role of doctors in a society needs little reiteration and we are all aware of their importance and criticality. Repeating the same will only be an exercise in redundancy. Doctors continue to command respect and receive a share of selfless love from people for their messianic services, but something unpleasant has conquered the horizon and an ugly phenomenon has made its appearance.

The doctor-patient relationship is increasingly deteriorating. The negligence of a few doctors has culminated into a wholesale black washing of the entire doctor fraternity. The incidents of manhandling doctors by patient attendants have been on the rise. This was inconceivable only a few years ago but has now become frequent and grave in our medical care sector where doctors have to run for their lives in case of any mishap which is beyond their control.

In trying to figure out the lacunae of irresponsibilities seen from the patient’s end, an attempt is not made to wear the shoes of doctors and feel their pain, gain a fuller perspective and reach a point of understanding and reconciliation.

This is not to absolve doctors of their responsibilities and to give them a clean chit.

There are cases taking place on routine basis where the negligence and professional incompetence of doctors ends up in medical nightmares, the lives of patients are compromised with and a medical licence is seen as a passport to negligence and a pass to sidetrack all ethical, moral and professional responsibilities. Having said that and being aware of the fact that there are cases of medical negligence, there is also an urgent need to call an end to the public uproar, the misplaced allegations they levy on doctors and to call into question the ill practice of public misbehaviour at health centres, hospitals and places of medical and rehabilitative functions.

The first point of realisation is that doctors too are humans and they too are subjected to same stresses and strains as we all do, that their mental health is susceptible to deterioration too, and that their bodies are subjected to exhaustion. We tend to think of doctors as some heavenly creatures who work more like work machines and tend to zoom out their human exigencies. These issues are cumulated in India in general and Kashmir in particular where the ideal doctor patient ratio is breached and doctors are put under stringent conditions of heavy patient inrush and inexorable workload. Reports reveal the deviation of doctor patient ratio in India and Kashmir respectively from  internationally accepted standards. Given this abnormal ratio, it is but natural that the burden on doctors is only going to increase and our perennial complaint against doctors of not listening to patients properly is also to be traced to the roots where the doctor is assigned patients in excess to what he can ideally handle. Yet, while we judge the hurry and anxiety of doctors in evaluating patients, we often subtract this component of added patient load and tend to place the entire blame on doctors which is not only unjustified but misleading as well.

Privatization of healthcare has changed the entire landscape of Doctor-Patient relationship and economic gains and returns have replaced the primary notion of Medicare which revolved on the axis of “In service of humanity”. In the wake of this shift, doctors have started prioritizing monetary returns over and above the well-being of patients and have almost given up their professional call of providing patients with necessary medical assistance devoid  of any consideration for material returns.   “Today there is a trust deficit between doctor and patient. The communication between them is at a low. We may be in a digital world, but in patient-care there should be a personal touch and communication to solve most problems. That’s often not there today”, writes JSN Murthy.

There is a need to revisit the Doctor-Patient relationship and to restore the element of human touch, empathy and understanding, in the absence of which the true spirit of the medical profession is destined to reduce to the standard of mere mechanical intervention.

While the doctor’s day is celebrated nationwide, it is more important to celebrate doctors and their work in our daily lives. Our practices in daily lives speak louder than our congratulatory remarks on social media.

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist