I am a doctor, but I don’t work miracles

Published: May 17, 2011
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Doctors are called selfish, arrogant and disengaged. Have people forgotten that they are also human?

Much is made these days about how callous doctors have become – how selfish, arrogant and disengaged they are from their patients. They charge exorbitant fees and pay only passing attention to their patients’ conditions. They get rich while the poor patients suffer.

All of that is partially true; it describes many doctors I know. In fact, in a general sense, it describes a lot of people I know. So I have concluded two things:

1. I should get to know better people.

2. Doctors are human. And they are a part of the same society we all are. They have the same qualities and the same faults that anyone else has.

Now, I have to admit that I am a little biased since I myself am a doctor.  But my biased view also gives me a close look at many of my colleagues who work hard to get it right. As a pathologist I regularly interact with several doctors in a day. Most of the doctors I talk to are not just interested in their patients’ diagnosis, they are also deeply moved by it. They try hard to get it right.

They are by no means perfect. But they are still a lot better than you might think.

Threats and accusations

Lately a doctor’s life has become rather dangerous. Every patient and every case has the potential to explode, and doctors find themselves living on the edge. Every day patients threaten their doctors with exposing them to the ‘media’.

Just yesterday, a patient threatened to break windows in my lab because he thought his results were incorrect. It has become common practice to cite ‘negligence’ by the doctor whenever a patient dies. Regardless of medical facts and circumstance, the cause of death in far too many cases these days is ‘the doctor.’ Never mind that the patient was 78 years old and had terminal cancer; or that the patient was brought to the doctor in critical condition, past the point of no return.

A few weeks ago a highly respected critical care physician was beaten up by the attendants of a deceased patient. And I am not talking about pushing and shoving. Him, his junior doctor, nurse and the ICU attendant were all beaten up. It was 2am and the doctor had been called in to the hospital in the middle of the night because the patient was considered critical. The doctor was at the bedside when the patient died. He did all he could, but he could not produce a miracle. And that was the reason they were all physically abused.

As a doctor, a Pakistani and as a human being, I think this is utterly disgusting.  I know that there are many sides to many stories, but aren’t some things off the table?

When did we become such barbarians?

This post was originally published here.

Omar Chughtai

Omar Chughtai

An avid reader of blogs who works as Lab Director at Chughtais Lahore Lab. Omar tweets @OmarChughtai.

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

  • mabel

    A good article. I totally agree. Doctors are only humans after all. This article reflects the intolerance that is kind of rampant in our society these days. Recommend

  • Choas A.D

    Right well said Dr. sahab.

    Many people don’t realize, it’s not just in the govt.public sector hospitals, but in elite, well-established hospitals of the city of Karachi that hot headed attendants have taken to roughhousing the physicians and staff, particularly on night calls. Recently a friend of mine was beaten by 5 attendants outside the MRI room of a major hospital because the patient’s (a critical 1 month old child with severe neurological deformities,) expired. For a good 15 minutes, he received a sound thrashing and when finally rescued by hospital security, he had to be admitted himself to trauma ward.

    So I guess that’s our life. No pay, no Security, but Miracles expected. I think we should replace the Dr. suffix with “Pir” title instead!Recommend

  • phatty

    Pakistanis tend to be needy of always finding a scapegoat to blame things on.
    a relative died? blame it on doctors.
    country’s a chaos? blame it on the politicians.
    Ye nahi, ke khud uth ke kuch kar len.Recommend

  • Happy Man

    @phatty:
    Next time, when someone from your relatives is sick, khud kuch kerna, don’t call a doctor…
    @ Writer:
    I know what you are trying to say, but there are many doctors then patients who doesn’t care. You are writing an article on cases that you experienced personally, but who will write about those cases when patients died just because of Doctor’s negligence and are kept secret. Torture on doctors is way less then the torture on patients done by the doctors itself. Explain Imane Malik case, Explain Faiz Muhammad Khan case, Explain Shehzad’s case at Mayo Hospital, Explain Sialkot Brother’s case, where doctors tempered with the Autopsy. Explain the death of hundreds of patients who died when you guys were on a strike. But as you said, “I know that there are many sides to many stories, but aren’t some things off the table? When did we become such barbarians?” Don’t become so emotional Doc, in this country everyone goes by the rule of Tit for Tat. He just broke the windows.Recommend

  • http://ashrafchaudhry.blogspot.com/ Ashraf Chaudhry

    Nice article. Doctors are as good or as bad as the society in general is. But there is no discounting the fact top consultants are less of messiah and more like merchants. There is no harm in being merchants when you know the value of customer services and treat patients like clients. I can numerate 101 examples at posh hospitals in Lahore where doctors treat their patients with utter disdain and take themselves from higher planets. I think I will soon be writing a blog post on a famous doctor of Lahore who treats his patients less than animals.Recommend

  • hussain

    True. All doctors can do is to impart their best toward the betterment of the ailing. Doctors can’t really do miracles, but they do their best to bring out one.
    And when you talk of the brutal behavior of some of the illiterate, savage, stink-heads; yes, like Jamshed Dasti, a ‘jaali degree’ holder MNA who scooped one eye of a doctor in the southern Punjab. Like Ziaullah Shah, MPA of PMLN belonging to Rawalpindi when dictates the brutal thrashing of the doctors at Holy Family hospital Rawalpindi and broke hospital windows and very sensitive medical equipment.
    There are hundreds of examples around Pakistan every week. Only some catch the light of media. They beat the person who tries his hardest to save their relative. It won’t help doctors work here and serve this thankless nation. If the doctors keep moving out, ultimately you’ll be left at the hands of quacks mark my words. Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Some Doctor HAVE maligned this prestigious profession no doubt either by their attitude, or by Mal-practice, but it doesn’t mean we put them all at the docks No way.Recommend

  • Egregious

    every one wants to vent one’s anger , when he finds the soft target , he does it. its a sad tragedy of our society instead of feeling dignity in abiding the LAW , they feel proud in its abdication and violation with impunity.Recommend

  • parvez

    There must be many good men who are also good doctors, no question about it. Finding one is not easy. My family physician would be sitting in his clinic on Eid day. His explanition was simple, people also fall sick on holidays. This good man passed away and even today, years later the neighbourhood has not got a replacement. Recommend

  • Zahid Mohyuddin

    Doctor Omar, good and sensible writing.Mr Happy Man lets start doing what you have suggested ‘TIT FOR TAT’. From where should we start a Parlimentarian, an Armed Forces Off., a Beuracrat,a Butcher who sells you meat, an Electrician, Plumber,Mechanic all of them who do your repair work the list is never ending unless they all are not human.
    Mr Happy Man by the way to what profession do YOU belong and is this profession practiced by human beings.
    The Doc rightly said Doctors are human too.
    Lastly Mr Happy Man you are not just ignorant but also unaware of the fact that it needs tons of knowledge to do medical auditing and not just a media report to declare somebody guilty.Recommend

  • http://none.moc BP

    You’re obviously talking about medical doctors – M.D.s – not ‘real’ doctors:)Recommend

  • Anon.

    My mother is a doctor, and I can totally understand what you’re saying. Malpractice does occur but most doctors do not waste all that time and energy just so they can treat their patients badly – there always is a greater committment to helping people. Most of the time, the patient is too far gone to be helped, but people love to blame someone. My sympatheis and I hope you don’t ever become the subject of a patient’s irrational wrath. Recommend

  • phatty

    @Happy Man:
    lol, my comment was in the context of this blog.
    And besides, one can always help out the sick relatives ^_^Recommend

  • Everlast

    @ Chaos A.D loved your comment ” I think we should replace the Dr. suffix with “Pir” title instead!” and that way no one would dare touch the doctor as it would be blasphemous :D Recommend

  • Happy Man

    @Zahid Mohyuddin:
    Read between the lines dude, why are you twisting my words. Try to understand my sarcasm. Stay excellent.Recommend

  • Dr. Adnan

    Yesterday a patient arrived in our Emergency ward, He was brought in a critical situation and his relatives were all furious that we are not providing the best we can I don’t know why as following are the patient stats :
    – Liver Failure
    – Kidney Failure
    – BP ( 70 / 40 ) / SpO2 ( 56 ) / Pulse 50
    – Shortness of Breath
    – Tachycardia (Sub Lingual was provided to overcome that situation)
    – Call to Cardiology & Medicine was made (Both physicians said there is nothing which can be done, he is at terminal stage.

    We maintained O2 Supply and IV line and monitored the condition also explained the Family that there is nothing which can be done as the patient is 85+ with all these conditions.
    It’s kinda weird when they are still blaming us after the fact that we kept the person alive on Vent and other artificial live support equipment for 12 hours.Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    rightly said sir!

    Apparently doctors can never do anything right.Recommend

  • Happy Man

    @phatty:
    Oh i thought you were getting senti as well like Mr. Zahid here. :)Recommend

  • Ali

    Happy man you presented right picture, you have shown the real face. If politicians are courupt they dont have respect, doctors want to treat themselves like politicians? Recommend

  • Cathy Robertson

    Returning to the original topic about “how callous doctors have become – how selfish, arrogant and disengaged they are from their patients”, I was surprised at where the comments lead. I expected this to be about the doctors, not the patients or behavior of the family. I understand why it took that turn, but was surprised. I expected this to address the need for medical schools to train physicians to have better social interactions so they could avoid these confrontations with family or patients. Yes, the respect and physical safety boundaries for all healthcare providers are something that must be promoted and provided. Having said that, the patient and family are their livelihood and why they are in practice, so a little more respect for their condition and emotional state of mind must be part of the overall medical training. Thought provoking article, Omar. Thanks.Recommend

  • phatty

    @Happy Man:
    Naa.
    I don’t think the writer is being senti. I just think he’s stating his fears. I’m pretty sure there are doctors out there, in Pakistan, who actually become doctors to save lives, instead of harming them or just for the sake of earning money.
    I’m not a medical student, but I know how much effort a medical student needs to go through to finally become a doctor. And if after that, instead of thanking those who help, we criticize them and blame them for where they went wrong, or where they were helpless, then that’s not really fair.
    Besides, doctors are just a source. The granting of a life is only Allah’s will.
    Agreed, that some doctors are corrupt, but we can’t generalize. There’s more to Pakistan than just corruption.
    And this piece of writing comes from a doctor with true intentions, i feel, to save lives. Recommend

  • Happy Man

    @phatty:
    I know there are corrupt doctors, but as you said we can’t generalize. Then how come he is pin pointing and generalizing among patients as well. I mean that’s wrong too. Everyone gets emotional, and you know how emotions are shown in this country.

    Plus I was talking about Zahid, not the writer :PRecommend

  • http://www.linkedin.com/company/sociality-360 Babar Khan Javed

    Give me the attackers names. Justice timeRecommend

  • phatty

    @Happy Man:
    lol, woops.
    Yeah, I realized that after I posted my response :$Recommend

  • Happy Man

    @phatty:
    No worries, at-least you realized :DRecommend