Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why the fuss, doc?

Satyamev Jayate's latest episode on medical malpractice has generated much debate as was, I expect, the producers' plan. The latest has been the uproar in the medical community alleging some sort of defamation. On what basis, I'm still confused about. But if the uproar has anything to do with one Facebook rant by a young doctor that is doing the rounds (see here), then I'm not convinced.

Dr. Sheikh’s argument is based on a line of logic that is disturbing. Throughout the write-up he is arguing that it is not fair doctors are having to pay for their community’s flaws when many other professions are just as corrupt. While I’m no fan of Aamir Khan’s flamboyant righteousness, I do not understand why doctors have been offended by the theme of last week’s show. They have as much as a right to be offended as an honest politician has to be, by Anna Hazare’s movement. Suddenly I see too many similarities between Anna and Aamir. Both have, on paper, noble intentions, are highly adulated by the masses, but their techniques highly criticised by the intelligentsia.

Dr Azhar Sheikh is I’m sure an honest hardworking professional. But his arguments weaken his cause. The most bothersome of them I am quoting below.

“Private colleges charge a capitation fee of 40 – 50 Lacs for MBBS, you should have also produced some evidence of such practice. Like you call a victim in all your episodes, why not here? And do the same story Engineering, Architecture, Law and MBA colleges, do you think they are clean? Why target doctors alone?"
This point makes it sound as if Dr Sheikh is skeptical about the practice of capitation fees in medical institutions. But as that would be unrealistically naive of him, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he only took issue with the fact that Aamir Khan presented no proof of its existence. In a news channel or in a show that you would expect some journalistic standard, the absence of evidence to support capitation fee claims would be inexcusable and perhaps even illegal. But as the claims feature on a show that airs on Star World, which is essentially entertainment, there is some degree of impunity.

It is Dr. Sheikh’s “Engineering, Arch, law colleges etc are just as corrupt, hence don’t target us” attitude that is the most bothersome. Instead what he should have or maybe meant to say was that just as the bad guys in medicine have been caught, bad guys in the other fields must be held accountable as well.

“One of your guest (Dr. Gulhati) said that doctors ask for 30% commission from Pharma companies to write their drugs. That is baseless, over-the-roof and sensationalizin g the matter. That is as true as “Most Leading actors ask newcomers to sleep with them”

That is a flawed analogy. In the casting couch scenario the actor endangers nobody but her/himself. Which is totally not the case in the doctor-pharmacompany scenario. By unnecessarily prescribing a drug, the doctors at fault are putting their patients in a financial as well as a health risk. Who's sensationalising now?

“You compared the numbers of Licenses cancelled in England and in India. I must say your team is quite resourceful and please collect and compare following details also – a.Number of doctors beaten on duty by goons from various political outfits.”
Again, this point of Dr. Sheikh’s completely discredits his point of view. What does doctor bullying have to do with cancelling corrupt doctors’ licenses? That’s like saying though only only 1 in 10 corrupt politicians are penalised, it’s okay since many politicians are killed by terrorists. Wtf?

“You said that the most brilliant students who take up medicine, should take it only for service to mankind, they should go to other fields if they want to earn. Why? Are we living in imperialism? Are doctors not allowed to earn and spend a good life?
Agreed, there’s nothing wrong with doctor’s becoming rich. Why shouldn’t they. But again, at the risk of sounding corny, I think everybody should join a profession they care for. Not just doctors. Maybe there’s more emphasis on doctors and journalists to be ethical over money-hungry because they deal with human life on such a direct level, unlike engineers or accountants. Then again, considering the decades of study a doctor has to undergo to establish him/herself I always thought doctors must REALLY be better human beings than the rest of us. I wonder if Dr. Sheikh would agree.

Now and then within his outburst, I feel Dr. Sheikh has a point buried somewhere, but he seems to be taking his anger out on the wrong people. Shooting the messenger isn’t going to help. Medical malpractice is real. It’s okay to feel a tinge of indignation when your profession is under scrutiny because of a few wrongdoers (I know. I’m a journalist), but don’t go to the extent of attacking the whistleblower and sticking up for the ones who are maligning you in the first place.
Whatever point he was getting at, was completely destroyed for me by the absurdity of his final dramatic statement.

“For every 10 doctors who are doing wrong, there are more than 1000 healers. You owe us an apology!!! 

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