When patients become ‘life-takers’ for lifesavers

Doctors point out reasons which influence the attacks by the patients on doctors. An activist demands that state should improve the public healthcare facilities

When patients become ‘life-takers’ for lifesavers
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According to a recent report in the medical journal The Lancet, over 75 per cent of doctors have faced physical or verbal violence at work at least once in their life.

Patients have become ‘life-takers’ of those who are lifesavers – think doctors these days. Recently, hundreds of doctors have gone on a strike and demanded that government should improve security measures to protect doctors from these attacks.

Following the recent incidences of attacks, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had come up with a registry where doctors can report the incident of violence. The analysis of this registry says that 90 per cent of the patients wanted doctors to acknowledge and address them, around 92 per cent wanted doctors to listen, as many as 89 per cent wanted the doctors to explain what the illness is and what the line of treatment is and around 75% of the people also wanted their doctors to review.

Healthcare activists point out lack of budgetary support to improve the public healthcare, as one the reason behind these attacks. The activist points out, that when the public hospitals are overcrowded; it is bound to increase the doctor-patient trust deficit.

Dr Abhijit More, Co-convener of Jan Arogya Abhiyaan explained, “Public healthcare is crumbling and ‘out of pocket’ expenditure of people is escalating. What is needed is to make the public healthcare system strong to treat all the needy efficiently.”

Though IMA makes assaulting the doctors a non-bailable offense, punishable by imprisonment of up to seven years, hardly any person is convicted so far. “While the law has provisions to protect the professionals, it is more important to ensure that patient’s family education at a grass-roots level about health conditions and treatment outcomes. It will reduce or prevent the occurrence of such incidents,” said Dr Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine researcher, Mumbai.

When asked about reasons behind such attacks, Dr Dasmit Singh said, “When the patient can’t pay for the material and drugs used, they feel that all the effort was only to make money. It’s a sad reflection of the lack of education in a common man.”

“If the patient doesn’t have to pay money for treatment, attacks on doctors will stop. Most of the times it is done by goons or relatives to avoid paying the bill. In an emergency situation, if a doctor follows a proper protocol of resuscitation, the bill is going to climb significantly. When the result of the effort is negative, the blame game starts,” he added.

While pointing out more such reasons, Mahajan said, “With advances in internet services, patients’ and their families today are well-informed of diseases’ conditions and treatment options. However, there are people unaware of health conditions and policies, which influence their attitude towards the doctors. In many cases, frustration due to the severity of disease, unresponsiveness to treatment, as many financial factors creates unrest.”

Doctors think that there is no one line solution to the problem. Dr Snita Sinukumar, an oncosurgeon, at Jehangir Hospital, Pune, said, “The vision of the government to provide affordable healthcare is appreciated, but in the process of providing affordable healthcare, patient safety and quality of care cannot be compromised. More awareness and emphasis on the importance of health insurance and regular health check-ups should be there.”

Mahajan added, “A mutual participation model, wherein both doctor and patient discuss the aspects of healthcare may be adopted. It would empower the patient, and other facts of the treatment can be discussed in a better way.”

“Patient autonomy, confidentiality, proper information, informed consent, providing the highest standard of care, and commitment – all this needs to be followed,” he added.