BENGALURU: What happens when the law clashes with medicine? Dr Kalyan C Kankanala, an IP Attorney in Bengaluru, imagines this situation well in his debut novel The Oath released recently. The story is of a doctor who is penalised for treating Naxalites – like Binayak Sen did. He tells City Express about his research, the challenges he faced and how his experience in law helped him.
Where did the idea come from?
My father is a doctor, and I have had the opportunity of assisting him and observing his work from close quarters. Like many doctors of his generation, he placed medical treatment and patients ahead of everything else, even family.
Sometimes, his dedication to a patient’s cause landed him in a dilemma. In situations where his medical duty clashed with legal duty, he always gave priority to medical ethics and patient care. Like him, many doctors believe in the supremacy of the Hippocrates Oath, and devote themselves to everything it stands for. Some of them get into serious trouble if their adherence to the oath clashes with their legal duty to the state. For example, Dr Binayak Sen was arrested for allegedly treating Naxalites, and had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get bail.
I did my best to bring out this contradiction and its repercussions in the form of an interesting story.
What did you have in mind when you started writing The Oath?
I wanted to write an entertaining thriller that brings out the clash between medicine and law. The characters and the story evolved in the light of the educative element I was looking to bring out – medical ethics vs legal duty. I set out to bring this out through an interesting trial and thought provoking arguments and sequences.
The genre you have chosen is different from the usual. Why did you choose to write a medico-legal thriller?
My earlier legal thrillers were based on themes such as pharma patents and access to medicines (Road Humps and Sidewalks); and Bollywood films, organised crime and copyright piracy (Pirates of Bollywood). Likewise, I chose a theme revolving around another socially relevant theme, medical care and legal duty for The Oath.
How much does it draw from real life and how much from imagination?
Parts of the novel are based on the experiences of my father and brother as doctors. Brainstorming sessions with them helped me arrive at some of the medical cases covered in the novel. The rest is based on research, imagination and extrapolation.
What were the challenges you faced?
The only challenge I faced was capturing the emotional, legal and medical elements of the novel in the form of an entertaining story rather than a boring narrative. Substantial thought went into making the tale interesting, entertaining and educative at the same time.
Who is your target audience?
I think anyone interested in reading medical and legal thrillers is my target audience. Doctors, lawyers, and social-minded individuals will find the novel especially interesting. If a reader likes works of Robin Cook, John Grisham, and Herriot, I feel they will like The Oath.
What kind of research did you have to do?
Out of one year that I spent on the book, three months went into researching, editing and revising. I had to research specific medical cases, procedures and treatment options, legal cases involving doctors and Naxalites, Naxal movement and its facets, and criminal law and procedure. My brother Dr Vishnu helped me narrow down my medical research to specific cases. He in fact advised me on the approach doctors would take under certain circumstances, and also, gave me inputs on how modern doctors react to legal issues.
How did your experience in law help?
My legal background surely helped me in bringing out the legal elements of the novel. Though I am an IP Attorney and do not deal with medico-legal cases, I studied medical jurisprudence and medical negligence extensively during my law school days, and did not have to work too hard to grasp the import of the law for the purposes of my story.