Featured in the Doctors Day Special of Manorama ArogyamJuly 04, 2016
Yes, I know. I have been away from the blog for awhile. What can I say? Life...
Anyway, as it has in the past, when I find myself unable to carry the blog, it takes a life of its own and carries me. I have been struggling to find the words through a tumultuous month and lo!and behold! My words wake up and appear on print even without me typing them.
What I mean to say is, I ended up getting featured prominently in the 'Doctors Day Special' feature of the popular Kerala based Health Magazine, Manorama Arogyam.
A lot of friends and well-wishers did ask for an English translation of the above article which was written with a lot of heart by the senior editor of the magazine Mr Santosh Sisupal himself so here it is.
I'm extremely grateful to Dr Sifana Razack for helping me in this translation. Could not have done it without you.
The Self Sacrifice of a Doctor
by Santhosh Sisupal (Senior Sub Editor, Manorama Arogyam)
"As a father, you will find me as broad minded and tolerant as they get. You will have every opportunity to choose whether you want to retain your religion or change it based on what resonates within your mind. You will have every opportunity to choose the love of your life irrespective of caste, creed or even gender. I will let you have every choice in life and I will be there to support you and guide you along the way. You can be a wildlife photographer trekking through the Amazons or dance the poles at Las Vegas. But I will never allow you to become a doctor in India."
And that is how one of India's most famous blog articles end. Written by Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan, a 35 year old anaesthesiologist hailing from Kannur and a blogger for over 10 years, "Why I will never allow my child to become a doctor in India" has gone on to amass over 3,00,000 page views and over 30,000 shares till date. A strong take on the many difficulties that those in the medical profession face today, Dr Roshan's blog has indeed become a powerful one, so much so that doctors all over India hold it as a shield against all instances where the doctor has been blamed for negligence.
Having completed his undergraduation from Mangalore and post graduation from Pune, Dr Roshan currently works as an anaesthesiologist in Kozhikode. Noticing the many setbacks that people in his profession faced right from his pg days, he says that the one thing in common among his friends, be it those working in AIIMS or in a primary health care center in Kerala is that every one has had to go through some form of difficulty in one way or the other, starting right from attaining a basic salary.
In a society that firmly believes that doctors rake in huge sums of money, little do people know that such an income becomes a possibility only in one's late 40s' after one secures a senior post. As one in his mid-thirties, Dr Roshan cites his own example of having earned a stipend of Rs 3,000/- in his late twenties, a sum not sufficient to start one's own family.
So much so that nowadays the medical profession has become one which takes away most of your twenties and eats away at your thirties. Entering the field as a bright eyed 18 year old in high hopes of becoming a heart surgeon, what happens if for some reason, the dream goes unfulfilled? Would it suffice instead to become the junior most in another department after slaving for some 15 odd years or would it eat you up from within?
Talking to hundreds of doctors, one finds that most of them are disillusioned.
In one such conversation with a young surgeon working in a prestigious institution in Mumbai who had joined with the hope that working in a reputed institute would do wonders for her career, he finds that she had been left disillusioned as she lamented the major setbacks her personal and social life had suffered. By travelling and getting to work at 7 in the morning and returning home at 10 pm to just fall into bed and repeat the cycle the next morning after waking up once more at 5 am, she found herself turning into a zombie with no quality time for her loved ones. Ironically, her monthly income of Rs 50,000 would not buy her two days in the ICU of the very hospital she slaved for. How does one comfort someone in such a position? By telling her that she would become more successful and earn much more in her forties at the expense of her thirties?
In an age where relatives living in the Gulf can afford to fly down home for family occasions, doctors cut a sorry figure, limiting their engagements for these family gatherings to a mere text message, even if they work just an hour away.
If only being a doctor implied less quality time with family and extra working hours but no, nowadays doctors have to take special care to return home in one piece. Apart from taking care of their patients, doctors nowadays have to take special precautions to face the wrath of the bystanders of patients in the name of 'treatment mistakes'.
According to statistics by the Indian Medical Association, three in every four doctors have undergone some form of violence or harassment from the public during their career.
Even though most of the alleged cases of faulty treatment have been proved to be otherwise, the public refuses to budge. All that is publicized and fed to the society is that the patient died due to faulty treatment from the doctor's side. Little does the public realize that there could have been any number of factors involved including individual drug allergies or even defective manufacturing of the drugs. Instead, in minutes, the 'God-like' revered doctor turns into the villain.
All this does not necessarily mean that the doctor is always right. One must realize that s/he are also a part of the normal society before and after taking off the stethoscope. Doctors who have tie-ups with various pharmaceuticals for personal benefits do exist. Others do try to make back the huge amount of money they spent on their education at the cost of the patient. Yet others do work up patients unnecessarily keeping the welfare of the hospital in mind. But one has to realize that rules and laws are in place to keep such activities at check. Physically harassing a doctor is not the solution.
Listening to the woes of a doctor from Wayanad who herself was 7 months pregnant about the wrath she had to face a patient's relatives when the patient's condition did not improve to their satisfaction, it makes sense that doctors nowadays would rather play it safe by referring a patient to another center rather than take the 'risk' of treating a high risk patient. The question remains though - if all doctors are harassed into taking up this policy of playing safe, wouldn't it be the patient who eventually suffers?
In his blog, Dr Roshan speaks out to his fellow doctors. "Know that you are not God. 'Feeling like a God' when you see a patient open his eyes after a successful surgery is different from believing you are a God. It only need one mishap for such Gods to fall... and fall hard."
In a profession where they themselves fall prey to some medical condition or the other by the time they are in their mid-thirties, more and more young doctors now suffer from cardiac ailments, infertility and depression. The number of doctors falling prey to a first heart attack in their thirties is also on the rise; the deadliest culprit remaining the high stress factor.
Striving to spread cheer in the operation theater himself, Dr Roshan shows no compromise in his own relaxation. Every six months sees this young doctor setting off with his friends on a trip, the most important celebration being that of New Year right from his college days. Contrary to people's beliefs that only a trip to Goa or Pattaya would suffice, Dr Roshan prefers to just relax and savour good food and a quiet reunion with friends.
To understand more of what he feels, his blog speaks to his fellow doctors:
"Ligating pulsating blood vessels is not a service. Restarting a heart is not a service. Suturing meticulously with threads thinner than the hair on your eyebrow is not a service. Identifying the extent of a tumour in the brain right down to the last millimeter while operating to remove it is not a service. It is an art. It is a specialized skill. It is a test of your endurance because at the end of the 25th hour of straight duty, you better save that 20th patient on your operation table or else everything you have done before this does not matter.
Above all else, it is a sacrifice."
It really does feel amazing to be honoured in such a way, my views being featured in a state magazine for no less than the Doctor's Day special issue.
I wish I had more solutions to offer... more ways to get the public to awaken and see that we doctors in India are trying our best to help you against terrible odds and that violence against us is never a solution for any mistake - real or perceived - that may occur.