Something is ailing in the Indian medical community. We are no longer the ‘respected’ profession, the parents – including doctors, want to push their children into. As 18 year olds, most of us were coerced into medicine by our families, prepared for the long journey in spite of all odds. The light at the end of the tunnel was becoming valued doctors, admired and appreciated by the community and the country. But the odyssey is long and arduous and full of toils and bumps and obstacles. So it takes a decade and some years more, from graduation to post graduation and then super specialization. And along the way, we come to terms with the reality of how, even in our late twenties, we are financially dependent on our parents, unlike our friends from school who are professionally settled and financially blooming. And by the time we join as consultants in government or private sectors, the rat race has begun at full throttle, to make up for the lost time.
There is nothing wrong with the race to the top. We are professionals, and unlike what some people may think, we have families and we’d like to be paid for the hard work, thank you very much. But unlike other professions, we deal with human lives – in sickness and in health. Ours is not just a shop to run, or a business empire to expand. Ours is not a profession to lure customers, away from the competitors into our lair. Which is why, it is disheartening to see doctors undermine and belittle their colleagues and competitors – in front of the patients and in public.
Professional jealousy, ego, business rivalry or the number race – no reason can justify this atrocity. Saying “ That doctor ruined your case !” or “ That doctor is a fool and knows nothing !” or “ That doctor is a fraud. He cheats his patients,” may earn someone brownie points, with the patient who has come to his clinic after a tremendous amount of doctor shopping, but disgraces medicine, and the medical community as a whole. How can we expect a patient to respect medical professionals if we don’t respect each other ? When we are out there, at each other’s throats determined to bring each other down at any cost ? How will the people trust doctors, if we ourselves, are giving them reasons not to. One doctor is trashing his rival and him, vice-versa. And the karma is turning around a full circle and giving it back to us, beating us down multifold. The irony of it all, is that the only time we seem to be standing together and watching each other’s backs, is when a few disgruntled relatives turn hooligans and thrash one of us down.
All of us our different, some may be more skilled than others, some may be more competent than others, but we can all agree that almost all of us strive towards a common goal – patient care. And none of us, to our knowledge, are unabashedly evil. One doctor’s approach towards a patient’s condition may be different, and what he or she did, may not be what some other doctor would do, but that doctor still acted in good faith and to the best of his or her ability. So it gives us no right to be self-righteous, and shout from the rooftops of how our ‘competitor’ mismanaged a case, and how things would have been so much better, if only the patient had come to us first. If unity binds our community in times of ordeal, when one of us has been horrifically treated by members of the public, or elected representatives thereof, the same thread should bind us in each day of our professional lives. Because though the practical world is all about the competition and the bad mouthing and the shrewd business and the numbers to show it, we are better than that.