The role of a doctor in treating patients has two important aspects: the medical and the humane. Suffering in the form of any illness or disease brings with itself a state of low self-esteem and hopelessness in the patient. While treating the patient, the doctor must address both the medical and humane aspects. While the diseased body part can be tackled by medical know-how, what is more difficult to address is the mental and emotional state of the patient. If the doctor has, and shows, empathy towards the patient, half the job is already done. A doctor is not a mechanic repairing the defect of a machine but a healer attending to the wounds of a human being.
The increasing attacks on doctors these days are condemnable, but there are reasons behind them. The insensitive policies of the healthcare system, the callous attitude of doctors, and the ignorance of the public are all responsible. A layman expects the doctor to be skilled at multitasking. The doctor is supposed to not only treat the patient but also put in the intravenous line, arrange the medicines, get all the investigations done, arrange beds, change bed sheets, and fulfil all other requirements of the patient. Everyone should get the point that there is a thing called division of labour that runs every system. You can’t put round pegs into square holes. Everyone has a job to perform and everyone should know what the other person’s job is before expecting them to perform a task.
It is very important, though, for doctors to understand the perspective of patients. They are in suffering and they need to be attended to with patience and dignity. Patients, too, need to understand that no one is more important than the other. Every member of society is important. The best example is that of all the sweepers who remove the filth and waste from hospitals and other public places. Have we ever imagined working in a hospital or any other place even a single day without their help? We are all like the different organs of the body; the functioning of every organ is equally important for our life and survival.
To all the attendants of patients I would like to ask, why do you think that doctors are machines? They are simply human beings with both positive and negative sides to them. They need to eat and drink like everyone else. It is after years of struggle on their part and on their families’ part that they have become doctors. They have had to strain every nerve to reach where they are. You have no idea that because of their hectic schedule, their routine life is in a mess. Sometimes they can have an outburst from all that stress, so have patience. Ours is not like the British or European system, where the doctor-patient ratio is much lower, that you will always expect a calm and composed attitude from an overburdened, exhausted and frustrated doctor. We are still the inhabitants of a developing, and in many parts, under-developed country.
Let’s keep in mind that we are one. We are all equal. Anyone can be a doctor, patient or attendant. We don’t need to attack our fellows. Tomorrow it can be you. And finally, the health policy makers should take strong cognisance of this grave issue of doctor-patient conflict. They need to redress the public grievances and to improve the system as a whole.
The writer is an obstetrician and gynaecologist at SKIMS Soura. [email protected]