On the occasion of National Doctors’ Day, take a moment to know your doctor. India celebrates July 1st as National Doctors’ Day since 1991. This day also happens to be the birthday and death anniversary of Dr BC Roy, who is considered as a doyen of modern medicine in India. He had several distinctions that stood out. One of which is he was qualified with both MRCP which is a medical degree and FRCS which is a surgical degree.
The other is that he was the second Chief Minister of West Bengal. Rightfully, the government decided to celebrate this day in his memory. The highest honour for every doctor is to be a recipient of the BC ROY Award. On this day, one is curious as to why have a national day for a particular profession?
To my knowledge there are 2 other professions other than doctors that deserve to have a national day – Nurses and Armed Forces. Why do these professionals have a national day? The reason is simple – they deal with human lives.
Last year, the theme for National Doctors’ Day was – Zero tolerance against violence against doctors. How ironic can it be that on one hand we celebrate a profession and on the other we acknowledge that there is anger and violence against the very same profession? I believe the reason is that people want doctors to be “Gods”. When they find that they aren’t, people are frustrated and disappointed, leading to anger and violence.
This begs the question – Do doctors deserve to be Gods? Doctors never proclaimed themselves to be Gods because they very well know that however well they may treat a patient, the outcome cannot be guaranteed. Every doctor has to wear many hats to satisfy a patient. A doctor who would come to your rescue when you have a medical emergency at home, a scientist who will let you know the latest treatment options for the rarest of diseases, a counsellor who would advise you gently to stop drinking or smoking, a philanthropist who would treat an economically weak patient with whatever sample drugs he’s got along with waiving his professional fees, a highly skilled surgeon who will operate on a bleeding and dying human even though he knows that the chances of success are minimal, and sometimes, even a friend who lends his ears listening to you pour out your heartaches.
But never have doctors proclaimed that they are Gods who can bring back the dead to life. William Osler said a good physician treats the disease, but a great doctor treats the patient who has the disease. Every doctor makes innumerable sacrifices so that he can be in the best possible position to help heal the patient.
He spends a minimum of 10 years to become a specialist, during which time he’s sometime paid less than a sanitary worker. He cannot care for his own parents or wife or children because he has to be in the hospital for 36 hours at a stretch.
Many doctors land up with lifestyle disorders like hypertension or diabetes or even heart disease and depression due to extreme life and death situations that they face every day. No doctor does all these just to earn a living. They endure these sacrifices because they are passionate about helping people in need and they took an oath to save lives when they started out their careers.
So then, why are these unpleasant situations happening between doctors and patients? Patients feel that they can “buy” treatment.Unfortunately, money cannot buy lives. Patients are ready to spend any amount of money to heal their loved ones. But we all have to remember that even God cannot give life for money.
How does anyone expect that a patient’s life could be saved just because they spent some money on treatment?
When a life is lost, the disappointment becomes anger and leads to violence against the very same doctor who was seen as God, just a few days ago. If we want a healthy relationship with doctors who want to give you their best, then our attitude towards them must change.
Instead of looking at doctors like Gods, look up to them as God’s angels. Let all the credit that goes in saving a life or healing a patient lie with the Almighty. Same way, if a life is lost, we have to accept that death is inevitable, as the will of God. On this Doctors’ Day, let us all cherish these Angels of God because we need them for the sake of humanity.
The writer is Dr DP Prakash FRCS Ophthal, American Eyecare & Lasik Centres.