Disclaimer: Friends, at the outset, the intention of this article is not to blindly criticise anyone from the medical fraternity. The aim is to highlight the travails of the average Indian on the street when faced with a situation where he has to rely on expert medical advice. I have tried to bring in an element of humour into this.
One of my relatives had gone for an eye-check up in Mulund-West, Mumbai. The eye specialist informed my relative that at the age of 77, he had what is called as a “nuclear cataract”. This condition called for an emergency surgery. My relative consulted another doctor in Mulund-East (second opinion) who rubbished the claim that it was a nuclear contract and said that he could afford to wait for 6 more months. Whom to believe? Where to go?
Friends, we are already living in a world vulnerable to terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, climatic (natural) disasters, increased pollution levels, continuous deterioration in the moral fabric of society, illnesses, rot in the education system, scarcity of water and contamination in the foods available. I do not know if it is true but some sections of the media reported that H1N1 was an attempt by the developed nations to create a scare amongst people and that they were helped in their mission by some media houses and drug manufacturers. So, a fact that we need to heartily accept is that when it comes to medical opinion, it has become dangerously subjective and person-dependent.
Years ago, we had a concept called “Family Doctor” who was more of a friend than a doctor. However, in today’s techno savvy world where mobile phone has crept into every aspect of our life, it is not uncommon to see doctors wielding the stethoscope in one hand and mobile phone on the other. There is no one called as “Family Doctor”. That concept is now reserved for posterity. Today is the era of specialists, just like in the food world, we talk about fast food. Fast check up. More medicines. Less of personal touch. No attempt made for a holistic cure.
Take the following advices that were given to some of our friends / relatives across Mumbai/ Bangalore:
- Do not give gripe water to your children.
- All Baby foods are harmful.
- Do not give milk at all (to a 9-month old baby).
- A well-known eye surgeon in Juhu tells one of his patients, ”Yes sir, you have to undergo a cataract operation. Please provide insurance details. We know the agents. By the way, which eye do you want to get operated first?”
The dilemma is how much of advice to accept and from whom. In 2004, when my father suffered a heart attack, he was advised to undergo angioplasty. The concerned doctor who has his hospital, located at a stone’s throw away from the famous Ratna junction in S V Road in the western suburb of Mumbai insisted on my father staying in the hospital for 1 week before he was shifted to Nanavati hospital in Vile Parle. Apparently, we came to know that he was wanting to refer my father to one of his doctor friends in the hospital who was on vacation at that time. So, instead of telling us the truth, he took advantage of our vulnerability, scared us, and billed us for the 7-days in his hospital before my father was shifted to Nanavati.
Nevertheless, we are thankful to this doctor who saved my father in the nick of the time. My father’s faith in the Almighty also played a major role in his recovery. Today, people are scared to go to this particular doctor’s hospital because he is famous for insisting on hospitalization for any and every one, irrespective of whether the situation called for it or not. Most of the time, the beds in his hospital are empty. His wife, a child specialist, has no patients coming to her while his son is not doing great in his studies. Reputation for a medical practitioner is extremely important. It is plausible that this doctor has not taken the Hippocratic Oath.
Another eye specialist located near S V Road, Malad told my mother – “There is a strong possibility that she will get glaucoma in the next 6 months”. We consulted another eye specialst near Sunder Nagar, Malad who was more reassuring, ‘No problem at all’. Six years down the line, my mother’s vision is perfect. (Touch wood).
A media report in Chennai gave an inkling about the modern trends in medicine when they published a research report on why every second child-birth case in Chennai was a Caesarean section. Every second doctor will, regardless of whether you need it or not, recommend you to go to a particular medical store, go to a particular pathologist, prescribe the drugs of one particular company.....Indeed, we in India, are emulating the US of A for all the wrong reasons.
Segueing back to my father’s case, I still remember the night in 2004 when my father suffered a heart attack. Our family doctor (yes we have one) had shifted to Andheri and so we had no option but to run to this lady doctor who lived in our locality and was practicing in the same area since 1975. She refused to accompany me to our home asking us instead to hospitalise him. Her husband used to be my father’s close friend but that did not matter. So, we had no choice but to rush my father to the hospital. It did not occur to that lady doctor that she could have given first aid. The ego came first. Sometime after my father was discharged from the hospital, this lady doctor was making discreet enquiries with the hospital to get her share.
So, the onus is completely on us, dear readers. We have to be careful, we have to exercise caution no matter what. Medical treatment is now becoming more and more subjective and we end up becoming pawns in this game of life and death. Of course, there are some medical practitioners who steadfastly adhere to their principles when it comes to code of conduct and ethical practices. But such people are few and far between. Invariably, such doctors place a greater premium on the welfare of their patients rather than monetary gains.
I would like to conclude this article on a lighter vein by recounting two interesting cases.
Dr Somnath Zaveri (not his real name) is deaf. When he set up his clinic in a Western Suburb of Mumbai, in 1970, there were not many takers. But he adopted a clever strategy. He patiently examined every patient, spoke to them at length and took his own sweet time in examining a single patient and prescribing medicines. Goddess Luck favoured him. By 1974, his clinic was the most populated one at any given point of time. Word spread around that this doctor was good, lucky and spent a great deal of time examining your symptoms of the disease. Even now, this doctor is popular; however, the flip side is that some of his patients have lost the patience to wait in a queue for 3 hours for a 10-minute examination.
Now, this one is from Bangalore. I had an infection in my right eye. One particular doctor named Dr. Kamsa Madhav (not his real name) seems to have been practicing in the Ulsoor area since 1978. At any time of the day, his clinic is full of people from the lower strata of society. He is known as “injection doctor”. Spurred by my own volition, I decided to seek his help for my eye infection. He appeared to be from the same school of thought as Dr Somnath Zaveri. After making me wait for close to 2 hours, he examined me in between bouts of reading the “Bangalore Mirror “newspaper. The total time that he took was 30 minutes, spread out as :
- 10 minutes reading Bangalore Mirror newspaper
- 5 minutes examination.
- 10 minutes writing the prescription slowly in running handwriting (cursive writing).
- 5 minutes for medical advice.
My heart skipped a beat when I realised that he was writing the prescription as if he was writing a love letter to his spouse. For an eye infection, he prescribed some 8-9 tablets/ capsules, prominent among them being a recommendation for a laxative. He also collected his fees of Rs.150/- and informed me, “Buy all your medicines from Gahanna Medical stores. He is a reasonable guy”. At Gahanna Medical Stores, I had to empty my purse for spending Rs.450/- for the medicines and had to send a SOS to my better half for bringing the balance cash from home. The worst part of this ordeal was that 10 days into the treatment, there was no significant improvement in my condition. Eventually, I approached an eye specialist who told me that it was a simple sty, laughed uncontrollably and uproariously on seeing the prescription written by Dr Kamsa Madhav. What an experience this turned out to be!