Please save me, Doctor

Published: July 3, 2012

They walked out on a patient being operated upon. They just turned their backs on him and walked out. GRAPHIC: ERUM SHAIKH

So, the doctors are protesting. What else is new in Pakistan? It’s just one endless protest after the other, is it not?

Guilty as charged; I have become desensitised to the violence and injustice my poor country sees every single day. However, this particular protest did not go unnoticed by me for one simple reason.

Innocent children died.

The gravity of the YDA protest really hit me when my driver narrated a story to me this morning on my way to work. Very casually he asked me:

Baji agar doctor apney mareez ko chor ke challa jata hai aur woh mar jata hai toh iska legally koi nateeja hai?

(If a doctor walks out on his patient, and he/she dies, what are the legal consequences of this?)

How could I succinctly answer this question?

Medical negligence; lack of ethics; manslaughter; murder – the list was never ending.

I asked him why he was asking, and he told me that his relative’s son who was being operated upon in Rawalpindi died because the team of doctors decided to walk out to join their ‘union’ ‘strike-partners’ or whatever it is they are calling it.

Now, my intention here is not to paint a dark picture portraying doctors as butchers of young children, but this child was no more than 11-years-old! At this point, my brain does not seem to comprehend how a doctor – a professional trained in the art of preventing death from occurring – can walk out. This is a person who knows and understands better than anyone else the crucial importance of time and the consequence of delaying for even a few seconds and yet, they chose to walk out.

They walked out on a patient being operated upon.

They walked out on a child that could have been yours or mine.

They just turned their backs on him and walked out.

My blood boils at the thought of not being able to help that child. Imagine the plight of the parents that just stood outside the operating theatre helplessly watching as the doctor said:

I’m sorry. I have to join the strike!

When was it that this child’s life became insignificant in comparison to a strike that would have gone on with or without that particular team of doctors? Forget ethics, duty and legal consequences. What happened to morality? What about a conscience? Did they turn around even once and think, ‘that child might die if I leave now’?

I am a positivist by nature, but I just cannot believe that the doctors walked out believing the child would survive. They knew he would die; any doctor skilled in his/her field, would have foreseen this eminent death. This child lying on the operating table could have been the saviour of Pakistan, but we will never know now because banners and microphones were obviously more important than a human life, right?

Having said as much, I definitely don’t believe that the strike is taking place for the wrong reasons. I believe that doctors deserve much more in our country. They work hard and make sacrifices very few of us could even bear to endure for a day, but what I also believe is that they have chosen a manner that is sparking fire amongst the public – public that was and still is in favour of their demands, but not in the manner in which they are conducting themselves now.

Dear Doctors, change your strategy. Get the public on your side, hold forums and conduct talks. Invite the public to join your cause.

When you turn your back on the public and leave children to die, the public, of over one hundred and eighty million, will turn their backs on you too.

Read more by Erum here or follow her on Twitter  @shaikherum 


Erum Shaikh

The writer is Blogs Editor at The Express Tribune and has an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of London. She tweets @shaikherum (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • RAZA

    The doctors are most educated people in whole world, so doctors should have shown more maturity and resorted to other means to protest rather than closing down the OPD’s Recommend

  • Critic

    Did you ever tried to find out the accuracy of the story your driver told you ??
    As far as i know, the strike of YDA was only for OPD. Doctors could not have left to join the strike, during an operation. This is unbelievable, but I doubt if its true or not.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    It’s all very well argued, except for one teensy problem: people aren’t dying like you imagine.

    ER’s are still open and dealing with life-threatening emergencies. Those who have expired are the ones who would’ve died all the same with a legion of hundred doctors treating them.

    There have been a couple of casualties due to negligence, but then that’s the negligence of a few doctors. The medical community overall, outraged as they are by the government’s recent antics, are dealing with the situation with as much gravitas as possible. Same cannot be said for the government, which is sending police to harass, imprison and torture doctors.Recommend

  • Ali S

    As a medical student, I find this quite tragic but let’s get to the root of the problem – we really need to fix our medical education system. Most medical students are girls, and the vast majority of them don’t intend to practice – their main purpose of doing MBBS is putting “Dr.” in front of their names and getting a well-off husband. Such people need to be eliminated from our medical colleges and replaced with people who actually have a passion for pursuing this very tough but rewarding profession as a career. They’re the main reason why we our government hospitals have a few overworked, underpaid doctors who are very prone to burnout (yes, it’s a noble profession and all, but these young people are also humans, the expectations upon them are ridiculous).

    Government-funded medical colleges should either set a minimum 60% quota for males (all of whom practice) or mandate a few years’ clinical practice in government hospitals for graduates to retain their MBBS degree. Even those who intend to land a residency abroad right after graduation should be allowed only in private medical colleges. The current system is a ridiculous waste of the government’s money – nowhere else in the world is becoming a doctor this convenient.Recommend

  • Abdullah Noorani

    Government should go for cancelling the degrees instead of so much negotiation … wht devastating situation they had created.. if they think over qualified qualified then proof themselves through humanity instead of ruin playing with peoples lifeRecommend

  • Sabeer Lodhi

    @Faraz Talat:

    I second Faraz on this! Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Agreed with you 100%. Recommend

  • Let Me Chip In too

    Facts about strike:
    1. Strike totally valid
    2. Reason for strike is SERVICE STRUCTURE
    3. No death occurred in the 12 days of Opd
    … 4. As soon as police arrested doctors
    mismanagement started and deaths
    5. Police arrested doctors from hospitals,
    hostels and their homes
    6. Hostel doors and windows broken by
    police (live on news) which are government
    property and constructed from tax money of
    7. Dr Naeem from gangaram brutally injured
    by police and is now in very serious
    8. Dr Zeeshan Malik from PIC also injured
    leading to leg fracture
    9. Army doctors are very very few in number
    as opposed to the lies told on news
    10. Army doctors only coming for OPD
    11. Many doctors who were appointed on
    adhoc and transferred from periphery have
    refused to work
    12. MTA and PMA and paramedical
    association have also decided in favor of YDA
    13. Seniors have said that it is unable for
    them to work without young doctors
    14 days of OPD strike and no deaths…. Now
    when gov handling hospitals in it’s own way
    by army and others, there have been more
    than 20 deaths !!
    This shows the incompetence of the gov and
    the newly appointed black sheep.
    We stand for service structure
    We stand for the release of our brothers
    We stand for our rightsRecommend

  • faraz

    I did MBBS but quit the field because of the ludicrously low pay. When I quit medicine, house jobian was paid 6,000 rupees, and janitor in government intuitions was given 7,000. People are correct in their anger over the inconvenience, but they can’t realize the problems faced by doctors. 50 or 60,000 is peanuts for a doctor who studies for 20 years, works 18 hours a day, and continuously updates himself with latest knowledge and technologies. Even doctors don’t realize how poorly paid they are.

    The real problem is the priorities of the state. Over 100,000 people die from preventable diseases related to unclean water. Who is responsible for that?

    Hundreds of people die each day due to lack of medicine, outdated medicine, poor investigation techniques, lack of equipment, ill-trained nursing staff, unhygienic conditions of hospitals. These deaths go unnoticed, so there is no hue and cry over that. People and doctors should demand increase in health budget; that’s the root cause of all ills. Recommend

  • H.Pasha

    Until the police raid everything was working smoothly. I was on duty yesterday till 5am in the ER of Rawalpindi’s largest general hospital and we were attending to all the OPD patients in the ER. While I was managing a patient, police officers along with the hospital’s MS came in and started threatening. Then they went to the doctors hostels and started breaking into rooms and beating up the doctors who had just come back from duty. Mind you, no doctor was OFF-DUTY since 14 days of the strike as all the OPD doctors had started working with us in the ER. It was after this barbaric action that most of the doctors who were to replace us escaped sighting police torture. And I would like to add that none of the young doctors left the ER until our seniors came to take over the patients from us. None of the surgeons left any operating room with completing the on-going surgeries. So death of patients due to non-availability of doctors is out of the question. The incident you are quoting here can not have happened as no surgery takes place without a senior doctor. Young doctors are there just to assist. Strike or no strike, leaving a patient in the middle of a surgery is un-acceptable for any doctor. I have worked along-side many YDA doctors and trust me none of them is capable of doing such an in-human thing. There is massive propaganda going on just to defame doctors.
    Please don’t become a part of it. Recommend

  • Confused

    From what I know doctors have been asking this publicly for ages before the protests started, it’s just that no one cared about it at all, not even enough for them to be highlighted by the media. Even now, with the protests, not many are listening to the doctors, just shows you the stubbornness from both ends.
    The public tends to take the side which the media shows the most. Doctors protesting, killing patients sounds much more controversial and sensitized than doctors also unhappy with government (take the blog title for example). I’m pretty sure this will be echoed from your blog too, despite you para saying that the doctors deserve the raise.Recommend

  • huees

    It is easy to criticize the doctors. However try to investigate how many ways / methods did they use before deciding to go for strike. You may find that amazing levels of deafness persists in the people who are in decision making positions in bureaucracy and how quickly they resort to brinkmanship, which may have led to doctors going on strike.

    So instead of criticising doctors, try to do some research before you write half baked articles with superficial knowledge.Recommend

  • Aaliya

    @Faraz Talat: shortage of doctors is affecting the services provided. I understand what your saying but don’t be so ignorant.. Don’t close your eyes to the fact that people are dying cuz of your actions.. And please don’t use the ‘only couple people died’. This approach is pissing people off. Even if one died, it’s too many!
    I read your other blog but I couldn’t get myself to comment cuz I’ve never heard anyone whining like that.. I’m a 3rd year resident, I complain about my working hours, my poor pay, my sleepless nights, and no weekends. I missed my brother’s wedding festivities cuz I had to work. I’ve complained about all of that and heard my friends complain too but you know what at the end of the day I’m okay with all of that cuz I knew I’d have to do it when I decided to go to med school.
    As a doctor and as general public let me just give a advice, stop talking about how much you studied and how hard you work.. Those things were given. You are not doing anything special! Talk about what you want, the real issues. These petty issues make you seem like a cry baby, nothing else!! It’s your right to ask for pay increase but this is not the way todo it! Recommend

  • Sh

    @Faraz Talat:
    In all related articles presently trending on ET, why are you hell-bent on claiming “no one is dying” or “they would have died anyway” or “corpses are not piling up as a result of the strike”. I have been reading your work for some time and I do agree with you on some issues but this one seems a tad insensitive. Your portrayal about the daily life of a doctor is all well and good, but unless you are keeping tabs on every single clinic/treatment centre in Pakistan, these would be unqualified statements to make.Recommend

  • Ahsan

    The YDA strike was for OPD not emergencies, till the government decided to storm the hostels and arrest young doctors. Tribune is widely read and writing articles without proper research based on what “your driver asked you” creates a wrong image for all the readers, especially those who don’t have time to follow the whole episode from start to finish.

    Doctors did try holding meeting with the Punjab Government and tried their level best to be listened to. Despite the impasse created by the stubborness of the Punjab Government, doctors DID NOT leave the emergencies and attended to all patients.

    The government has left children to die, and doctors to remain frustrated. Calling in military doctors to try and prove that young doctors are not indispensable is a feeble foolish attempt at deceiving the public.

    Stop hunting doctors, then only shall they be able to return to the discussion table.Recommend

  • Nafees

    Well for doctors, if you guys are so fedup with the Government Duties, why dont you just resign and do something else instead of adding miseries to the common man. Everyone trying to made a MAFIA and trying to get benefits one way or the other… Shame for all those who are part of it and making this Nobel profession a controversial.Recommend

  • sheda_Rambo

    @LetmeChip @YDAsupporters
    your lies will not release you from your Murders and killing …
    Dr naeem was hit by asthma attack … n it was police who took him to hospital …i hope you know asthma attack doesn’t give any warning …

    and y do you silly doctors think that if you hv done your MBBS that makes you something out of this world ..there are may more professionals much more well educated than you still working for the nation but noooo ….
    plz come out of your Mr doctor complex

    all you YDA is politically motivated “criminals ” who want money money money n thatss it …..

    YDA must really be the young wing of TTP …..Recommend

  • Asad

    How pathetic can this really get actually? The story you have written is complete and utter non-sense. The problem with almost all Pakistanis is that they rely a LOT on hearsay and don’t actually take the pain to know the real facts! You people don’t even know how the system works in government hospitals and what was actually happening during the strike. Go sleep!Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Salute to you mam. You seems to be the real doctor. The one who loves the profession and ready to face every hardship in the path.

    I know one thing, people who love their profession, money does’t become problem for them, As you are going to become doctor, Allah will bless you with shifa in your hand and more and more people duas of people will make you number 1 in your profession inshallah.

    Money become problem for those doctors who thinks that “Patients are not the sole purpose of their life”.

    God bless You.Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Question to every YDA doctors:

    What do you want?

    A. Healthy Society (no one will come to you, means no money)
    B. Sick society (every one will come to you and you will earn billions)

    Do you want to work for the society or for the money ? Option is upto you.Recommend

  • Sane

    Patients who are dead due to negligence of doctors/surgeons is basically a murder in least words. If there is any law in this respect, must be implemented with full force. If no law exists must be legislated immediately. I have seen and heard many doctors toying with patients. They see patients not as patients but a ‘case’. Such cases make their fortune. If there is any legal case against doctors it is investigated ‘technically’ by their peti bhais. Who declare culprit as innocent.
    Their fees and charges must also be regulated by some authority. There must be some rationale in fee and charges. They hardly give five to ten minutes to a patient to charge as much as Rs. 1,500/- or something near to it. There are consultants who mint money like more than Rs. 100,000/- per day without any tax.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Thumbs up !!!Recommend

  • Hakeem

    @Faraz Talat: Quote me a single doctor whose license has been cancelled due to negligence. You guys are acting like Freemason fraternity. You always cover up the blacksheeps among you. Docs are posted in countless BHUs all over the country, how many turn up each morning for work? I will answer for you, very few. But all of them turn up on the first to get their pay. There is no shame in doctors anymore. They have just become money making machinesRecommend

  • Faraz Talat


    In all related articles presently trending on ET, why are you hell-bent on claiming “no one is dying” or “they would have died anyway” or “corpses are not piling up as a result of the strike”

    Quite simple: I like facts.

    The deaths did not start occurring until the police started raiding the doctors’ homes, hostels and hospitals and started beating them to pulp. ER’s had to be shut down for doctors’ own safety as the situation had become too turbulent for them to keep operating normally.

    Otherwise, no deaths were reported in 12 days of OPD closure (none that were the direct result of the strike), which by the way, is the usual method of strike for doctors around the’s not unique to Pakistan.Recommend

  • daactar

    give them respectRecommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    I’m very surprised that a story as gruesome as this never made it to any newspaper. Did you, whilst standing on your moral high ground and being a sub-editor of a newspaper, investigate or report this? Any links to share? One wonders if this blog is based on actual events or perceived scenario? If the events described by your ‘driver’ are indeed true (and not here-say), then the doctor(s) involved deserve life sentences. But as someone who is in the medical profession & has part of enough surgeries, I would simply not believe such a story without any evidence because its just not consistent with the reality. When do you ever hear of a surgeon leaving a patient on an operating table and walking out? If such an unfortunate event has happened, it is an exception – not a rule. But if it hasn’t, are you (journalist) liable to any sort of questioning of malpractice or litigations? Fortunately, you’re not answerable to anyone and can malign people who save lives day in and day out with the odd old wives’ tale.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Let Me Chip In too:

    Primary reason for these 20 deaths is the doctor’s strike. If some one died because doctors walked out of operation theater to support OPD doctors, those doctors should be charged with first degree murder?

    What is service structure? Is that more impoartant to a doctor then a human life.

    Causes for all deaths should be investigated. If deaths occured due to negligence, doctors responsible for care in those cases should be tried in court. Recommend

  • Hakeem

    @Aaliya: Ma’am you are a real professional. One who is in the profession because of love and not want to make tons of money. My wife exactly thinks like you and she is a doc in govt of Punjab. She abhors the foolish and stupid attitude of these YDAs. She said that I chose the profession and I knew that there will be nights and day duties, pressure and all that stuff and I will face it. Somehow these YDAs have lost their moral and ethical compass. More and more docs need to speak out against these hooligans because it pains me as I am a son, bro and husband of a doc. Money is a by product for a professional and his/ her first aim to get the command of the professionRecommend

  • Hakeem

    @H.Pasha: Ma’am or Mr. Come on, who are you fooling with your statements? Let me quote you one first hand incident. My wife was a housejobian in medicine department Rawalpindi Cantonment General Hospital in 2005. A girl came for delivery who was expecting twins. Now you know that delivery of twins is a complicated one but once she went into labour, the duty trainee doc called the specialist Gynaecologist who told her to do the delivery as she is busy with guests (mind you she was on call). The trainee tried to do the delivery but complications occured. She was put to OT in emergency and C-section was carried out but babies had expired in the process because they were probably stuck up in wrong positions for quite long. I do not know what happened and what anti biotics were prescribed by Gynae surgeon but they were not potent enough (as per my wife’s superior medical specialist) and the girl acquired a severe hospital acquired infection. In the next day afternoon, the case got problematic and medical specialist was called (who was a gentleman and a top notch one) who tried to save the girl but the girl expired in few hours (it was too late). My wife said that her specialist was furious at the negligence of gynae specialist but could’nt do anything. I was there to pick up my wife once I saw people crying outside the hospital taking the body of young 23 year old girl whom they happily brought one day before for first delivery. Whose fault was it? was an inquiry done? was anyone punished or license cancelled? No. Docs are behaving as freemason fraternity. They just cover each other in such issues. The family was told that she could not survive. But in actual, she suffered due to negligence of the gynae specialist. She is still practicing and making millions. Don’t we know that gynae specialist are known for pressurizing the female or relatives at the nick of moment to go for C-section so that they can make more money. How low will you docs stoop?Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Faraz Talat: “The deaths did not start occurring until the police started raiding the doctors’ homes, hostels and hospitals and started beating them to pulp. ER’s had to be shut down for doctors’ own safety as the situation had become too turbulent for them to keep operating normally.”

    Police raid did not kill any doctor. Doctors created a situation that made police use force to keep law and order. ER was shut down for doctor safety or to put pressure on authorities to accept doctor’s demands..

    I don’t think police is stupid enough to disrupt services in ER..

    Society should make sure genuine demands of doctors are met. Every doctor should treat each patient with respect as an equal huan beings.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Hakeem: “.delivery of twins is a complicated one but once she went into labour, the duty trainee doc called the specialist Gynaecologist who told her to do the delivery as she is busy with guests”

    Doctor should have been barred from prcatising medicine, that way she could spend all her time with her guests and family. She negllected tha patient probably because she was poor and not from a rich powerful family.Recommend

  • vaqas

    There is so much ignorance in these comments its not even funny. The general idea spread among the nay sayers seems to be if you dont like the price you get for your vegetables hang up your pushcarts and sell pharmaceutical products. Lets all atleast pretend we are a sane wise bunch of people, please.Recommend

  • Mohammad ali Gaad

    i was so heavyhearted when i listened about this news past weak, i was fully crumbled and ideas got in my mind that these fake doctors only needs money for they don’t care once precious life. but on other hand i was so happy that Doctors for army were there to treat patients certainly hats off to them. Recommend