A dying relation: the doctor-patient bond

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Dr. Priyanka Roy

Let’s accept the fact first, doctors are not next to God, they are there  to help;
Things could be a bit easier after that.

Gone are the days when doctors were treated with respect. Nowadays, they are being looked upon with envious eyes, ready to be attacked, any moment, they get a chance. Somewhere a paediatrician is being killed, somewhere a senior retired doctor has to face the fury of a mob, he bleeds to death; somewhere a fresh passout, barely a doctor fatally injured at the casualty by patient’s attendants, somewhere a lady gynaec assaulted and the list goes on. Somewhere doctors are not spared even after death, they are denied cremation. The respect that Corona warriors deserved for embracing death for the sake of others, they are denied of that respect. The Indian Medical Association has reported that 75% of doctors face verbal or physical abuse in hospital premises and fear of violence was the common cause of stress in 43% of doctors.

Every so often negative portrayal of doctors, the demeaning remarks on doctors by some influential people, these all have established (as it appears) a negative impact against the medical fraternity, in the mind of the people. Say, put a defamatory post against a doctor on Facebook and see the number of comments that follow. A doctor spends more than a decade in attaining his/her skills and he/she is questioned for the charge he/she takes for his/her expertise. In which profession do we find all clean people, but does that mean that there’s no clean people in any profession. But here, the wet and dry burn together. And the outcome is visible.

The doctor patient ratio is worsening. The referral rate is rising, not only depending on the condition of the patient but also depending on the condition and number of accompanying attendants. Skilled surgeons are getting apprehensive and scared to perform challenging cases, fearing an attack if things go otherwise. And a vicious cycle is surfacing, where, in view of the growing atrocities against doctors, some doctors have become less empathetic towards patients, which get reflected in their attitude, this, in turn, leads to dissatisfaction on the other side, which fuel their rage, and the cycle continues. Both the sides are suffering.

The backbone of any relationship is trust, and this also goes for the doctor-patient relationship. But, in the present day world, where Google’s advice comes prior to a physician’s words, many patients are hardly getting the therapeutic benefit of the doctor-patient bond; something that heals the anxiety and fear of a morbid patient.

It’s not that the rude tongue of a doctor should be tolerated, or the arrogant bossy attitude of some attendant. Egos should be curbed on both sides. Talk and transparency should be emphasized. A professionally friendly attitude with a transparent explanation about the condition they are dealing with should be prioritized. Taking into consideration the limitations of facilities, expertise,  infrastructure, cost and their own faith, the patient can go for another health centre, depending on their choice (cafeteria approach), rather than getting treated with distrust and dissatisfaction and making things difficult for both of them.

Unfortunately, cases of medical negligence do occur at times. But in the present day scenario, things have become such that sometimes, not generalizing, if a patient dies despite all possible efforts of the medical personnel, the doctors are held responsible, keeping a blind eye on their efforts. Sometime when even a brought dead patient arrives, its the doctor’s fault at times. Giving a dead declaration has become a potential threat to life.

Doctors fight diseases, they are not at war with their own patients. The nation herself is going to suffer, if, in view of the growing atrocities against doctors, the number of new doctors, continues to decline in the clinical departments. Recently, amidst the rising incidents of violence against healthcare workers on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 and the Indian Medical Association demanded the Centre to bring in a law on an urgent basis to protect medical professionals from an attack on duty; the Centre has brought in an ordinance under which, a person who attacks a healthcare worker who is treating COVID 19 cases, can be jailed for a period of 6 months to a maximum of 7 years with a fine from 1 lakh to 7 lakh and in case of damage caused to vehicles and clinics of health workers, the guilty will be made to pay a fine which is double the market rate of the property damaged. Laws of this kind should be strictly implemented and exercised. Neither a case of medical negligence nor a case of violence on medical personnel should be let go off, just like that.

It depends on both the sides to stop a field, that deals with human lives, from becoming a market place. Piles of consent forms are increasing, the number of attendants along with the patient strictly dealt with in many institutions..still we get to see such heinous crime of attacks on doctors. Where is it all heading to..an increasing gap, a mechanical approach between both the sides. Both doctors and patients are suffering, and along with them, the nation is at stake. A bridge of understanding is what is required, from both sides.

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