Saturday, July 13, 2024

The pandemic’s ironic revelations

Physical assaults of doctors make headlines every so often ~ a few instances across the country did recently. And, such instances have been rightly condemned. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has been exerting pressure on the Government to legislate more stringent laws on such assaults to protect doctors and other health personnel for decades. Any form of violence against anyone is abhorrent and must be censured ~ especially at a time like this when health personnel are at the front of fighting the pandemic. One hopes that someday, doctors would also exert the same pressure on the Government vis-à-vis violence against women as they are the front-liners of relaying the human lineage to prevent the human race from extinction. Anyway, assaults on doctors seem to be quite a major problem in India therefore some serious investigations ought to be done because these assaults underscore a deeper psycho-social malaise. Just as no women “asks” to be raped or physically assaulted, so also no doctor or anyone else “asks” to be beaten up. But it happens ~ in the case of women, we can generally attribute it to patriarchy but doctors, especially male doctors? No one “asks” to be assaulted ~ more so doctors, who are considered invulnerable and accorded an enormous amount of respect. Doctors also rarely believe that they would be assaulted ~ after all, without them a patient’s cure and well-being are uncertain. Perhaps, their indispensability sometimes makes some of them arrogant and insufferable ~ sometimes to the point that already under stress of a loved one’s adverse health condition, some people simply lose it and the doctor(s) is at the receiving end of a combination of frustrations, despair, mindlessness, rage and provocation of existing violent nature. Sometimes, doctors are blamed for a patient’s deteriorating health condition and death ~ which sometimes is also not groundless. But if the doctor is culpable, the proper thing would be to take legal recourse ~ but that’s difficult as most people wouldn’t know where to begin looking for evidence, much less provide it. Besides, there would be very few to stand witness against a brother/sister doctor and break the close-knit professional bonds of fraternity. But suing doctors is a very common practice especially in the US so the legal course isn’t impossible in India or any other country ~ besides, the Hippocratic Oath, the medical profession is also mandated to abide by the well-defined laws of the land. Legal recourse is a far better option than bashing up doctors because violence is never the solution and sympathy is inevitably directed at victims of violence. However much we idolize doctors as healers, they are also human beings with human flaws and imperfections ~ and wont to make mistakes; sometimes also due to carelessness. So, while assaulters breach the law by resorting to violence hence must be penalized within the ambit of the law of the land, all cases of assaults on doctors must also be thoroughly probed. The June 10, 2021 issue of Nagaland Page, had a Page 1 Anchor titled: “Now concerns rise over pvt. Hospices’ healthcare workers’ preparedness”, which highlighted the unacceptable and indifferent attitudes and behavior of some doctors and nurses in some private hospitals, at Dimapur. The aforesaid Anchor highlighted a few instance of such unethical behaviour but there are numerous other instances too. Meanwhile, the Principal Director of the State Health and Family Welfare Department issued directives to Government healthcare personnel to “serve efficiently and sincerely” ~ basically telling them to behave themselves because he knows such behavior is rife in Government health institutions too. Let us admit such unacceptable behavior is real in Nagaland too ~ fortunately, there are no or rare instances of physical assault of our doctors and other healthcare personnel. Incidentally, such ethically unacceptable behavior of healthcare personnel unfortunately spawns another problem of violent reactions. This is an issue public and private healthcare sectors must study and analyze thoroughly because violence against our healthcare workers is a problem our society and State can do, and must do, without. As much as we understand and are forgiving that healthcare personnel are human beings, they must also understand and be forgiving because patients and their caregivers are equally human too. The problem of health professionals’ unethical conduct and behavior and the concomitant violence against healthcare professionals is also a reflection of individual value-systems and of the work cultures of health institutions. Ironic what the pandemic is capable of revealing, no?