Last night, I posted about the Umerkot incident where doctors had refused treatment to a sanitary worker just because he was filthy. This resulted in a lot of backlash from doctors. They felt like they were being threatened or treated badly or blamed.
Full disclosure, my parents and my sister and half of my family are doctors. The truth is I honestly understand and get it. There are a few professions that are very difficult, but in my experience the two most difficult professions in Pakistan are being a doctor and being a teacher. In both cases, you are essentially dealing with a human being and not a product. This makes it difficult. I will write about teachers another day. But, lets focus on doctors for today.
Sometimes patients think that doctors can do everything. Doctors can’t work miracles. They can try and help. But, I have seen doctors getting abused, being beaten and their patients questioning their judgement. Doctors spend years studying and years working on low salaries during their trainings. In general, only those who get high grades and the brightest opt for this profession that too amongst fierce competition in medical schools. After that if they face abuse and questions on their judgements that can be daunting.
At the same time, what a lot of people don’t understand, medicine is equally art as it science. There are no guaranteed cures and life and death are obviously in the hands of Allah. Yet, mob mentality made worse by media can create havoc and many issues specially for doctors. On the one hand you have people saying they are only in it for the money, obviously everyone is as they have to provide for their families, on the other hand doctors complain it is a thankless job.
However, mob mentalities and media exploitation aside, just two weeks ago a patient was brought to my mother for a routine check up whose husband was a reporter in a third rate news channel. He said if my mother didn’t see him first he would show it all over his channel and give a bad name to my mother. My mother horrified had called me and I asked the reporter to please go to another hospital.
Doctors face many challenges. While, they have gone on strike for money because they were and are genuinely underpaid. They exercised the only option that they had to walk out. But, is it right for a messiah to do so? Well no. But what other option does the messiah have?
Yet, this treatment has sometimes made doctors so sensitive to any form of criticism that they combine together to defend one of their own. Like in the Umerkot incident if the doctor didn’t treat the patient then he should face disciplinary action.
We need to come to our senses about a lot of things in Pakistan. This is one of them. People need to understand doctors do their best, and not unnecessarily blame them or assault them. If doctors earn money, there is nothing wrong with it! They studied and worked hard to do so. Doctors also need to accept there are shortcomings amongst human beings and they need to be fixed. However, needlessly persecuting or needlessly defending any doctor is wrong!
The Umerkot incident is just a tip of iceberg. Medical profession is an old noble profession because of compassion and dedication. Doctor treats their patient when they are most vulnerable and it is imperative they act not only in the patients best interest but also display high level of integrity and professionalism. Unfortunately like any field health providers are also prone to inadvertent mistakes which does not need to be swept under the carpet. There are some dodgy characters in the community who exploit the vulnerable for their monetary gains, they need to be dealt with stern hands. I don’t think there is any ethical stand point which could be used to mitigate the incident, however we need to have open impartial inquiry to fully understand the sad incident. Doctor has to provide care if if there patient is dirty, unclean. Point blankly refusing to provide treatment goes against the basic tenet of oath every doctor takes on graduation.Lets use this incident to reflect back on our actions irrespective of our trade. Unless we accept a problem we won’t be able to contemplate the remedy or prevent it from happening again.