Pransu Raj Kaushik
A few days back I was forced to take a trip to the casualty wing of a hospital, as I was stung by a spider. The pain was so terrible that I was virtually stunned for a few anxious moments. While being driven on the way to the hospital, I called up my Mumbai based childhood friend Dr. Zachariah S. Choudhury, longing for some expert reassurance from him. The way he counseled me was enough to calm my nerves and I reached the hospital without any further unwarranted fear lurking over. As I reached the hospital, I was ushered into the cabin of a medicine specialist, who started attending to me almost immediately, despite the fact that a patient was already in the cabin. After basic first aid I was moved to the casualty ward for observation and later, on finding that the spider was non-venomous, I was allowed to go home. Readers, me being stung by the spider is not the focal issue that I want to draw your attention to, what I intend is to emphasize on the behavioural pattern of both the doctors, which played a positive role in helping me recover from the incident.
I have always believed that a person who has direct public connect, whether in the role of a medical practitioner, a civil servant or a policeman, should always bear it in mind that though unreasoble under certain circumstances, but the public always expects them to be compassiote and approachable in their dealings. In recent years we have seen a surge in the number of physical assaults on doctors by patients or their relatives. Whatever be the reason, it is deplorable that the patient-doctor relationship has dropped to such unhealthy levels. From what I have gathered from people of the earlier generation, this relationship was based on the ethos of mutual trust, compassion and concern. The general populace regarded the doctors to be a representation of the ‘almighty’ and treated them such.
Gradually, with the rise in the level of literacy and more so in other professiol genres, the knowledge gap between doctors and their patients diminished extensively and the people who earlier regarded doctors to be of a superhuman kind, began to question them and their approaches. The doctors of the earlier era were regarded to be beyond question and they expected it like that so as to allow them to treat the patients without any hindrance. This was logical keeping in mind the general level of literacy prevalent among the general populace. So, the transitiol phase where the doctors gradually began losing on virtual non-interference, non-questioning role expected from patients, slowly got eroded. What cropped up in its place were qualified professiols, armed with what I term as ‘Wikipedia knowledge’, negotiating and questioning doctors. In present times, almost everything has started to be weighed on the monetary scale. “I have paid this much amount to you, so I should get value for money on the treatment,” seems to the prevalent code of relationship between the doctors and patients.
It is logical that every individual, more so the current crop of highly educated and professiolly successful generation, wants to be treated with dignity and respect by others. And when that is not forthcoming, friction is bound to occur. What I find peculiar, rather derogatory in most cases is when doctors and other medical staff address the patients as “patient tu”, in Assamese. Now, as readers might be well aware the usage of the word, ‘tu’, sounds rather demeaning to say the least. Why some common basic etiquette cannot be followed as regards communication, is beyond reason. Similarly, a patient or his or her relatives should also understand that a doctor is a professiol who should be allowed to do his or her job and if the level of persistent and illogical interference in the method of treatment provided rises, it is tural that the doctor will find it difficult to provide treatment with the level of freedom that is expected.
Both the concerned parties should realize that times have changed, and with it the behavioral patterns should change as well. There are many medical practitioners who have adapted to change with grace, while some still seems to be bogged in the cocoon of complexity. They need to be prepared to face ever questioning patients, people who want to be treated with respect on an individual level and not treated with dismissive attitude. Patients on the other hand should realize that no matter how educated they are, Wikipedia knowledge is not the correct way to approach a disease. A human life is not so simple to be played with some bulleted knowledge garnered from the internet; it is best laid in the hands of people who are trained for the job. There are only a handful of people who are selected to study medicine, so, the privilege of service should be respected.
I firmly believe that aspirant doctors should be trained on ‘compassiote communication skill’ and patient etiquette. This will go a long way in preparing them for the many unwarranted situations that they might face in their professiol lives. But, it is undoubtedly true that in a transitiol society like ours, it is not easy for doctors to generalize their approach. We still are a fluctuating complex society, where one end is highly successful and uplifted in every social specter, whereas the other still lives below the basic minimum requirement that a human life entails. This is the challenge the modern day doctors should be ready to face, the challenge of unpredictability, now how they do it is another million dollar question. Now is the time to frame the changing law of Hippocrates, I believe.