Monday, May 18, 2015

Yes, Don't Let Your Child Become a Doctor - a Patient's Point of View

I am writing this because I have been very disturbed by recent tweets and an article by doctors about how difficult it is to practice medicine, particularly in India); so difficult that they will not allow their children to become doctors.
Okay, so it sucks being a doctor in India.
But it sucks being almost any other kind of professional because the very system that we work (and live ) by in this country is hugely flawed.
Corruption, compromising of ethics, interference of the powerfully connected, etc., etc  is rampant everywhere and the medical industry is no different.
Even those of us who are not going to be doctors also leave college and school with silly illusions, foolish ideals and foolish expectations that we will do this that and the other to change things, to do it our way
("Be the change you want" - remember?)
And even we who don't end up as doctors are quickly forced to divest ourselves of those silly illusions, foolish ideals and foolish expectations and plod down the straight and narrow, wearing our cynical, disenchanted, jaded blinkers.

And yes, the government policy on health sucks.
 Which is why despite the rash of  "super specialty hospitals" advertised with more fervour than fairness creams and online shopping sites, decent (often even basic) medical care is out of reach for many (dare I say millions?) Indians
But isn't that true of everything else?
Isn't it true that a large reason for farmer suicides is the government policy on agriculture?
Isn't it true that government policy on education, housing, environment and a host of other things has had much to ensure that they are are all within reach of only a tiny percentage of the privileged?

(At a more cynical level, how many doctors really aspire to "serve", rather than aspire have their own "private clinic" somewhere down the line?)

Now for the part that I don't agree with so wholeheartedly.
You say - the doctor's pay sucks.
You know better.
But isn't the reality also that the reason why parents (almost without exception) want their kids to score marks high enough to get into med school is because the medical profession is one of most well-paid and lucrative professions in the country, scoring even about "software engineering"?
And which is why in the dowry market, a doctor commands the highest price.
And which is why the epidemic of new "medical colleges" is almost as bad as new "engineering colleges".

Anyway, the point that you want us to get is that in summary, life as a doctor in India sucks.


But it sucks for almost every other professional, in more cases, much much more.

Our teachers (in a country where as the saying goes - Gurur-Brahmaa/ Gurur Vishnnur/ Gururdevo get my drift) are some of the most pathetically paid professionals. They teach in a parrot-farm educational system about which the less said the better, with textbooks that often are "corrected" to suit the whims and fancies of the current political thinking in power.
 So, we should discourage our children from becoming teachers?
Or writers? 
Oof, don't get me started on that. Who reads these days, anyway, unless it's a Chetan Bhagat novel?
And unless you become an Arundhati Roy or a celebrity columnist, forget rent, you couldn't afford tea-and-khari biscuit on a freelance writer's money.
By the same count, should we also discourage our children from musicians?
And painters?
And dancers?
And photographers?
It's a long, sad list....

However there is one reason why we SHOULD discourage our kids from becoming doctors, something that sets apart this profession (along with teachers and pilots)from all others.

People trust their lives and bodies in a doctor's hands, often literally. Both precious beyond words and both irreplaceable.
That is why, a software professional may not be killed for an app which goes haywire. But a doctor's mistake can mean an irrevocable loss of a body part, of life.
Also, there is no human condition more terrible than a diseased one.
Pain. Disability. Deformity. And with it, loss of livelihood, of self-respect, of dignity.
And finally, the loss of life itself.

That is why, when a doctor heals, he or she is God
And when a mistake is made, it is unforgivable.
Even more unforgivable if the mistake is made out of sheer callousness or negligence
(I almost lost an eye and would have had difficulty walking again because of two such "mistakes)

And we know you are human.
We know that we make demands on you that are almost inhuman, asking you to work a schedule is punishing, leaving little (or no) time for family and life as we know it.

 As a doctor, you have special powers. You have knowledge of our bodies and what makes them work and how to fix them when they don't that we will never have.
And because of that, you have one other thing.
Our trust. That you will do all that is in those special powers to heal us, or at least to make it all a little more bearable.

Now you can look at all this two ways.

Either as a privilege. And that even though it demands a heavy price, it is a privilege that is worth it.

Or as a burden of  a profession (albeit a noble one) practiced in a country ill-equipped to accommodate its special needs.

So, which way you look at will determine on whether you will let your child become a doctor or not

Actually, why am i telling you all this?
You are the doctor. You know best

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