On Medical Ethics: Doctors Must Listen to Their Inner Voice

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Muzamil Rashid

We believe that life is given by Allah and doctor saves it from time to time with the professional experiences and skills bestowed to him. The medical profession is considered as a noble profession. Patient visits doctor expecting that doctor will use his/her knowledge and skill in the most appropriate manner, keeping in mind the interest of the patient who entrusts his/her life to the doctor. The patient has a right to expect a certain standard of care from the doctor. To be a doctor does not mean merely, ‘to dispense pills or to patch up or repair torn flesh’, but, a doctor is an intermediate between man and God. He is not one who cures the most, because in many specialties recovery is not a frequent outcome. It is not one who makes best diagnosis because accurate diagnosis is not possible every time but best doctor is one who cares for his/her patient and is humble, honest, clear hearted and of humanistic nature.
In most of the Hospitals of the valley, one can say with references that how the patients are suffering, either because of the lack of facilitation or because of the unethical, arrogant and non-satisfactory attitude of the doctors. Who can forget the recent incident of a pregnant lady at L.D. Hospital belonging to a far flung area who was reportedly forced to have delivery somewhere outside the hospital premises? Examples of dissatisfaction are many and it could be a research topic for researchers; and the extent of malfunctioning of these institutions of public importance can be analyzed from the recent incompatible blood transfusion of a patient at SKIMS, Soura. A common patient doesn’t even know who and where to complain!
Last week, I visited a hospital at Srinagar to consult a doctor, as I have been suffering from chronic allergy from last few months. Living 45 km away from the hospital, it took me a long time to reach there. On the way, I confirmed from the hospital contact number that the doctor has not arrived yet. Half an hour after the call, when I reached the hospital, there was a crowd of people waiting in hospital premises and there was a lot of hustle and bustle in waiting hall. I was surprised to hear that the doctor whom I wanted to meet has already left. Two doctors, who were treating patients in the OPD now, were actually P.G. students, and they were prescribing medicines in absence of any supervising doctor. It really scared me, “and that is how they are cheating the patients,” I said to myself. Doctors hardly focus on the patients who mostly belong to poor segments of the society. Here extreme thing was that, nobody was there, to check the carelessness and detached state of doctor’s mind towards their patients. Specialists concerned give a faltering reason for different fundamental things. I left the hospital without consultation, with a lot of questions in my mind.
Is there any law in place to regulate the working hours of these doctors in Kashmir, if yes, then why isn’t it followed anywhere in government hospitals? Is there any higher authority in hospital to which common man can approach? I personally being sister of a doctor will never defend and bear this situation.
Public awareness of medical negligence in Kashmir is growing and doctor patient-relationship is strained considerably, leading to increasing number of malpractice suits. Failure in providing timely medical treatment to a person in need is violation of his/her right to life guaranteed under article 21 of Indian constitution. This is established where a doctor’s practice has failed to meet an appropriate standard, the standard of reasonable man and a human being. There is increasing negligence or incompetence on the doctor’s part which went beyond a mere question in Kashmir. Medical negligence also includes the doing of doctor something, which a prudent and reasonable person would not have done.
There is rising trend of negligence in government hospitals of Kashmir, charged with negligence, may be sued in civil or criminal or consumer courts. Concerned authorities must be vigilant to see the reasons behind the suffering of common man and whether the reasons given for putting a patient at risk are valid. Doctors in training should be aware, that they are expected to seek advice and assistance where they lack experience, in order to preserve public safety.
In the hospital, it should be mandatory to have rosters of every doctor displayed for public. The roster should clearly mention the shift duties and on-call period for each specified day and week applicable to each doctor. The concerned heads should take into consideration the total shift duty hours of doctors. Doctors should have both, vicarious as well as inherent, duties of care to their patients. They must be given ethical trainings during their studies and, of course, refreshment courses, from time to time, in order to make them understand the feelings, problems and the sufferings of a common man. Although there are many doctors whose role cannot be neglected, but I as a patient, have the message for most of the doctors of the valley to listen to the patient when he/she speaks; and let you suggest/counsel him/her, before you start prescribing “killing-medicines”!

—The author, a Research Scholar of Anthropology, can be reached at: burzahama@gmail.com