Incompetent healers, uncaring doctors

Published: May 24, 2011

Doctors can make mistakes, but when they fail their patients multiple times, they cannot be defended.

Ok, I give up. I know I said that doctors care. And they do. At least most of them do. But then there are some who are either too incompetent or too ignorant or just too damn arrogant to admit that they don’t know what the heck is really going on with their patient.

I saw a patient yesterday who had seen at least five different doctors in Bahawalpur and Multan in the last two months. After months of looking for answers for his poor health, all he had for a diagnosis was Anaemia (low Haemoglobin.) Someone performed an ultrasound exam a week ago, and declared that his abdominal organs were all normal.

Here’s the thing. No one performed a physical exam on him. Not one of the doctors that he saw in the last two months managed to see that he had an enlarged liver, an enlarged spleen and enlarged lymph nodes all over! A final year medical student can tell you that it looks like the patient has lymphoma. But not these five practitioners of the art of healing. As for the ultrasound, I wonder if the machine was even turned on when the exam was being performed!

A similar thing happened a couple of weeks ago. We had a young patient come in for a blood transfusion. The child was two years old and had been diagnosed with Thalassemia. For her blood disorder she had been receiving monthly blood transfusions ever she was six months of age.

Here’s the problem. She didn’t have Thalassemia! If someone had bothered to look at her blood film, they would have noticed, as our Haematologist did, that she had increased Eosinophils in her blood. These are the cells which fight parasitic infections. This poor child had nothing more than a parasitic infection in her GI tract! She was given one dose of anti-parasitic medication, and she improved dramatically. A week later, she was a different person altogether. She never had Thalassemia, and those 18 blood transfusions were completely unnecessary!

I said last week that most doctors do care for their patients. They do try to get it right.

And sometimes, being human, they make mistakes. I know I make mistakes every day. Show me someone who says he doesn’t make mistakes and I’ll show you a liar.

In these cases however, it wasn’t one doctor who missed a diagnosis. It wasn’t one mistake. It wasn’t one doctor having a bad day. These patients suffered because one after another, several different doctors failed them. And I can’t defend that.

Omar Chughtai

Omar Chughtai

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

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