>An Ounce of Respect

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Some people visit hospitals just for making trouble. There are days of rural service when one actually feels like one is doing a service. Of course, most of us Compulsory Rural Service docs feel like CRS is a necessary evil, there are those who stop it midway to pursue PG entrance preparations (I was in the set last year), but on most of the days, going to work gives me a sense of satisfaction. The Art of Healing (no pun intended) is one of the noblest, and though recent happenings and newspaper reports along with the acts of certain doctors might have reduced the respect of general public towards doctors, people still do appreciate and respect you when you cure them. More so, in the rural areas. Mine is a semi-rural (or semi-urban) area. Having worked in Nemom, an urban area, I can appreciate the sharp difference in attitude of people towards us.

Still there are people and episodes which sting, which makes you wonder why you bother to put in the extra effort to be nice. I’ve seen all sorts of doctors. I believe a majority of doctors in Government service have a languid spirit towards patients. The aim in most cases is to disperse the queue in front of the OP before the duty hours are over. I don’t claim to be special or different. I too like to be on my way when duty hours are over, still I spend time with patients and try to relieve their problems as much as possible (the aim of medicine, one comes to realize is to control symptoms and provide comfort. Cure comes second. Diagnosis a third. You think diagnosis comes before cure? Experience taught me otherwise. But that is another story!). So I felt rather affronted when a patient started speaking rudely with no provocation. He said something was wrong with his eyes. I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. He repeated something.


In many cases, one can’t quite understand local slangs. I asked him to repeat again as I couldn’t quite follow him. He seemed to take offence at that and started verbally abusing me saying if I was incompetent to examine him, he could see another doctor. Without raising my voice, I told him that I couldn’t examine him if he couldn’t be well-mannered. I told him that as primary care physicians, I wasn’t really expected to undertake a close examination of his eyes, and could very well ‘just refer’ him to an ophthalmologist. He said he could just visit an ophthalmologist if he wanted. He wanted to know if I could treat him or not.

I don’t work well under ultimatums, and I told him that Compulsory service or not, a doctor whether a government doctor or private practitioner was entitled to refuse to see a patient if he wanted, and that he was welcome to see an Ophthalmologist. I handed him his O.P. ticket back.


Even though we’re employed in Government service compulsorily, we don’t have to condone threats from anyone. The guy was obviously the leader of some non-existent party, judging from his demeanor, and by the way he wanted to pick a fight. Doctors aren’t scum, and deserve to be treated with respect. One doesn’t walk into any other government office and misbehave with the official there. If he does, it’s bound to happen that the issue would be stretched in time, and take ages to get completed. In most government offices, you don’t see half of the staff at their desks either. We start OP punctually at 9 a.m and don’t even take a tea-break, though we’re entitled to one. So when one does his job properly, the least that is expected is to be respected for his job.


Of course this guy was an exception. Still as an old Malayalam proverb goes, “even a bite of a non-poisonous snake is enough to make one miss one’s dinner”!


You are reading this post on The Eyrie, Joel G Mathew’s Blog.
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