To the Young and Sensitive Doctors
What do you want to be?
A true doctor or Doctor Dracula!
This appeal is not addressed to those doctors who have grown old by heart. It is not for the pragmatics. This is for those doctors who have a young heart, who are sensitive and don’t think only for themselves, who have not yet stopped dreaming. This is addressed to those doctors and would-be doctors who still believe in the possibility of a better world and who believe in themselves.
The medical profession is one of the noblest professions in the world. You save lives. This is a profession which expects its practitioners to have deep humanist concerns. Have you ever thought about what is the space for these concerns in our society and the present medical education system?
Just think, you are going with a resolve to treat people and make them healthy in a social setup where 70 percent of the population survives on less than 20 rupees a day, where 40 percent children are malnourished, more than 50 percent deaths under 5 years happen due to nourishment-related factors, 70 percent children under 5 years are anaemic, 30 percent of adults suffer from chronic nutritional deficiencies and 55 percent women are anaemic. It is sad and ironic that common people are dying today of illnesses for which drugs were discovered more than half decade ago. Still, people keep dying because they do not have access to medical facilities, they cannot pay doctors fees and they cannot afford medicines sold at 10-20 times higher prices than their cost. Some poor people somehow manage to buy medicines to treat their illness but even you know that their main disease is hunger and under-nourishment. You also must be knowing that the government of India spends far less than what many poor and backward countries spend on health services. And whatever facilities are still available through government hospitals remain mostly unavailable due to rampant corruption. Medicines meant for public hospitals are sold in the black market. A large number of doctors are interested more in private practice than serving their duty. They avoid going to health centres in rural areas.
The public health system has collapsed today. A large number of doctors set their goal to open their own nursing home or join a reputed private hospital to make as much money as they can. They may get isolated in their own community if they don’t follow the trend. It is common knowledge that a large number of private practitioners and doctors are hand-in-glove with diagnostic centres and path-labs. Patients are advised a number of unnecessary expensive tests to get lucrative commissions. The pharma companies offer bribes in various ways to ensure sales of their branded drugs. These companies also use poor people from countries like India as guinea pigs for trials of their new medicines. But these poor people cannot afford the same drugs when they are launched in the market. The pharmaceuticals business has become the second most profitable business after the arms trade.
Rampant privatisation has also resulted in the quality of medical education going down. The mushrooming private medical colleges are churning out graduates with medical degrees but most of them are way below the standards. Still, the poor and working class population is mostly at the mercy of quacks and unqualified doctors. Government run medical institutes have better standards but many of the students and most of the parents start making plans to get back their “investment” by making heaps of money as soon as they get out of college. One of these plans is also to get a good dowry for doctor babu!
Is there any scope to honour the ‘Hippocratic oath’ in this vicious circle of greed and worship of Mammon? Do you ever think that you are not just a money-making machine, but a sensitive young human being living in a society which prides over some islands of affluence and luxury while the majority of people are languishing in a hellish existence? Do you ever think that raising your voice against costly medical education, sales of fake medicines, corruption in the healthcare sector and the uncontrolled profiteering by the pharma companies is a basic human duty which you cannot ignore, and even as a doctor you cannot look away. In a society like ours, if a large section of doctors free themselves from the sick desire of amassing money and unite to raise their voice against these injustices, only then they can fulfill their responsibility in the true sense. There have been numerous doctors like David Werner of Mexico, Norman Bethune of Canada, Che Guevara of Cuba, Dwarkanath Kotnis of India and the doctors of the Shaheed Hospital in Chhattisgarh who have seen their profession in the context of their social responsibility. If the real disease afflicting a society is exploitation and injustice, a doctor must also think about the cure of this social disease. Healthcare is a fundamental right of people in a democratic country. If a doctor does not stand with the people in the struggle to get this right and thinks only about collecting more and more means for his or her family and accumulating huge amounts of money, they join the ranks of the bloodsuckers – willingly or unwillingly!
You’ll have to think – do you want to become Doctor Dracula who thinks of sucking blood even as he is looking for the pulse in the bony hands of a poor man, or do you want to be a real doctor in service of the people! You will have to decide, and decide soon!! Or you will turn into Dracula without even knowing it!!!
This appeal is addressed to all the young hearts who have not become shrewd and worldly wise. Who have not joined the ranks of cruel moneybags. Who still have humanity in their hearts and are ready to raise their voice against injustice. If you think a meaningful collective effort must be made in this direction, do not hesitate to contact us.
With warm greetings,