Real failures of Dr Hazida Bawa case: Five issues to ponder-why doctors suffer?


 The case of  Dr Hazida Bawa  is of importance worldwide in many ways, an opportunity  for learning some hard and truthful lessons, as it touched upon various crucial aspects involved in medical treatment, especially in difficult situations. Every one has sympathy for the deceased, but  to blame a human factor, doctors should not be presented as sacrificial lambs.

       The current verdict is nearer to reality and away from a feeling of revenge and harsher penalties. It  gives a hope  that now there will be  acknowledgement of the difficult circumstances and limitations of medical system in health care environment.  To make doctor scapegoat for the  system limitations, poor prognosis or severe disease may be satisfying for some but not sensible. In this case doctors lodged their protest, collected money for lawsuit and the decision was re-looked legally. But every  doctor may not be  lucky enough and may have to suffer  in silence.

 Real failure in this case will be ignoring the factors that actually cause huge suffering for doctors-

  1. Presumptive failure by retrospective analysis: Retrospective analysis of any treatment will always show few things at hindsight that could have been done and would have proved life saving.  One may presume that omission or commission  of certain actions during treatment would have saved the  life,   but one can’t be sure whether these additional presumed treatment would really have benefited the patient.  Therefore a  perception-reality gap is created and with  negative perception towards doctors, it is interpreted as a  failure of doctor merely on presumptive basis and hence declared as negligence.  The doctors who deal with life and death know that it is not correct interpretation, and no one can ever be sure of what the real outcome would be. They just do what they think will be most effective for the patient, and it may not eventually turn out to be the best ever.
  2. Variable interpretation: Same evidence, incidence and circumstances are interpreted and  judged differently by people and  even courts. Some will say it is negligence and other will say it is not. Some will bay for doctor’s blood and other will not. This variation in perception is not only in minds of lay men but also in the learned courts, who  decide  differently.  At the time of death of patient, a constant and  universal last link is only the doctor, that is visible. He is an unfortunate victim, a human factor   and blamed for  the harm done because of variable thought process.

 

  1. Medical knowledge vs wisdom: People who do not treat patients, may be very wise and may acquire medical knowledge by various sources. But medical wisdom comes  only after years of medical practice,  by observing varied situations and spectrum of diseases. An understanding of what can happen in given circumstances comes only by treating such   emergencies.         For non doctors, it is very difficult to  comprehend the medical complexities and real time scenarios. Even doctors, who do not treat regularly emergency patients, can attribute the harm as doctor’s  mistake.

 

  1. Feeling of revenge:  in case of an  adverse event, negative thoughts prevail all over. In present scenario with legal powers with the sufferer and common sentiments against doctors, it is easier to identify and blame some human factors.   Adverse outcome is frequently covered by media to create a sensation among masses.  Real circumstances can only be felt by doctors  but that remains unheard. Harm to patient, media cry and negative sentiments against the service providers creates a sense of revenge in mind of people.

 

  1. Doctor’s negligence vs system inadequacy; This visibility of doctor at the time of  declaration of death  or while treating the patient on his bedside, makes him vulnerable to all kinds of accusations. By application of an average wisdom, all deaths can be easily attributed or linked to fault of the doctor. Subtle presentations of severe disease, rapid deterioration, multi organ complexities, under staffing and sub optimal systems, inadequate equipment and  other innumerable shortcomings of the whole system may not be visible or not given consideration in the  haze, as compared to  publicity and attention  given to only doctor’s faults.

 

Medical lawsuits, revenge & punishments to doctors : reminiscent of realms of ancient Hammurabi medical regulation


With the evolution of medical science and medical care intertwined with  medical business, braided changes in  medical  regulation is not an far off expectation. But reticulation of evolution to modern medicine  and health care has not happened  in  isolation. Simultaneously there has been  progressively complex emerging trends in medical business and changing patterns of health investments along with an era of corporate investments in health care  has also ushered.  Every one now wishes  to live longer  and  dreams of better quality of life with support of progressive medical care.  Opportunities projected by advancements in health care, have shown that these dreams can be a real possibility, in many cases. That kind of perception has given patients a hope in lieu of some money. With rich people willing to spend more, the insurance sector and investors putting money into health care, which was unthinkable few decades back in the  past.  This reticulation of business and  health care allowed health care to be controlled  in some way by administrators and investors. Away from the health providers, who actually treated the patients.

As it is no more simply treating a disease and involves many more issues.  New model of  medical regulation and business in  health care is  still  not a mature process. It has emerged and progressed in  just  for few decades, as compared to  medical treatments and systems that existed since ancient times. It is still in infancy and still has to go a  long way to do real justice to every one.   No one really knows how to regulate this difficult area,  which encompasses life and death, deals with extremes of poverty and riches, mortality and morbidity, pain and  relief , sadness and happiness, smiles and sorrows and uncountable emotions, intertwines with financial aspects. Most difficult part is  amalgamation of  intricacies of science with minds of  patient and doctor’s skill in  newly evolved milieu of financial complexities.  Results are not encouraging for the medical profession.

 An effort to govern or  regulate the medical profession  is not new. Hammurabi  had initiated to  write the rules of the game. This single professional species was managed with cruel regulation around 5000 years ago, that initiated a change in the global perception and regulatory system in radical and unprecedented ways.

Hammurabi  5000 years ago,  was  not even at the   doorstep of medical science, but he  promulgated some rules. It is difficult to say whether he was naive or  brilliant  enough to make it more mathematical. He fixed  heavy prize for saving lives and used to  cut the hands of physicians for death or untoward incident. But he was still wise enough to pay heavily if life was saved.   After thousands of years, with some scientific advancements, our regulation has remained more or less similar in basics. It is still based on principles of revenge and punishments. Now clearly  knowing well the limitation of medical science and the uncertainties and complexities of human body in better way, it still  remains  somewhat  unfair to doctors.  In other words, it has not attained enough  evolution and maturity.

  Hammurabi at the start of civilization believed that doctors needed to be punished in case there was poor prognosis. He failed to understand the complexity of human body and the limitations of medical  science, most of which was unknown at that time. By an application of average wisdom, doctor can be easily blamed for poor outcome, because he is always a common link between treatment and poor prognosis. Stricter punishments were imposed to  regulate medical profession, even  when the medical science was not even developed enough to deal with most of diseases.  Children are always taught in school that medical profession is a noble one. But they are never told, about the cruelty this profession has faced since ancient times.  Almost universally, the earlier work or contribution of  a doctor  to society is  not taken into account.  Even for complexities of medical science and uncertainties of the outcome, blame can  conveniently be  passed on doctors due to application of average wisdom.

    Hammurabi’s Codex specified the harshest form of deselection of health providers possible. If the physician erred through omission or commission, his fingers or hands were cut off, immediately stopping his practice. Therefore, a single mistake can undo all the good work of past or the future good work that could have been accomplished.

Problem here is that who can differentiate with certainty the real cause of sufferings of patient, a poor prognosis or a mistake.  Such harsh  regulatory systems will dissuade  other good people joining the profession, again  resulting in  further inhibition and flourishing of profession for the good.  Obviously,  harsher  penalties will discourage a physician surplus.

Today the global  system of medical regulation, is becoming somewhat  similar, to those ancient regulations in  terms of punishment and revenge. Differential payment system for health care also resembles the Code of Hammurabi in some respects. And this is despite the fact that now we are very well conversant with the known uncertainty and complexity of the human body and despite cognizance of the poor prognosis in many disease states.

Fear factors on doctors and impact of present legal complexities is already at par with that of Hammurabi’s era

“Doctor, why to risk yourself for petty gains?” Telephonic treatment is negligence: Bombay High Court


“Doctor, save the patient, but save yourself also”.

In medicine, any small or big disease or  procedure can have complications.  Frequently, dangerous complications have a subtle and insidious onset with very little symptoms. DVT and pulmonary thrombo- embolism is a known and life threatening complication associated with pregnancy.  This complication and the unfortunate  scenario that  happened  is not unknown and has a potential to recur. So doctors need to learn from such incidences to save themselves.

Since the overall scenario of medical complication and consumerism have undergone a sea change, doctors need to  be careful and change their approach to save from legal issues arising from these. They have to make sure that each small problem  has to be seen carefully in person, as it may harbour a serious threat.

Observing that prescribing medicines to patients without diagnosis amounted to culpable negligence, the Bombay High Court has turned down the anticipatory bail pleas of a doctor couple booked for the death of a woman patient. The doctors have been booked by the Ratnagiri Police under section 304 of Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) after the patient died earlier this year. According to the police, the woman was admitted to the accused couple’s hospital in Ratnagiri in February this year where she underwent caesarean operation and gave birth to a baby. The court order said the woman and the child were normal and were discharged two days later. The doctor spoke with the chemist who then gave some medicines to the relatives of the woman. However, even after taking the medicines, the woman did not feel better and was taken to the same hospital, it said. When the woman’s condition deteriorated the next day, the doctors at the hospital shifted her to another hospital, where she died, it said.

   Question arises, why  doctors commonly   need to prescribe by telephonic advice,  specially as in this case, if the doctor themselves were not available.  what made them  to enter into such a dangerous situation? Do  really there are substantial gains to risk so much and everything in life? The reasons:

  1. Most of the time, to retain the patient. As they already treated the patient, It is a natural tendency to  continue the treatment. Factors here are loyalty issues and loosing patient to other physicians.
  2. Sometimes patient request, to avoid coming to hospital or to avoid visiting unknown hospital or other doctors. It is not uncommon that patients request some advice on phone.
  3. Symptoms do not look dangerous or alarming. Patient interpretation is not appropriate. Even myocardial infarction ( heart attack) is taken  as due to “wind problem.”  Main problem here is that doctor is relying on patient’s interpretation, which is likely to be incorrect.
  4. Most dangerous is a friendly advice or relatives. Where it is mistake of both doctor and patient.
  5. Patient is far off and for convenience

 

So  “Gains” in such situations are nil or petty.

Rarely it is done for earning money. It is just done for the sake of convenience. But doctors should  wake up in  the era of consumerism, where no one is going to pardon them for  mistakes.  Retrospective analysis gained with wisdom of hindsight makes them repent many times more than petty gains.

Doctor need to forgo petty gains in order to save themselves. Do not take chances. No one will realize later, what were the causes and intentions behind the mistake.

“Doctor, save the patient, but save yourself also”.

 

 

Lawlessness strike docs: doctor attacked by mob SGM Hospital, Delhi


In reality violence against doctors is a law and order problem. But cleverly blame is put on doctors. Doctors can not treat mobs. That too with limited resources. Recent attack on doctors at  hospital is another example of lawless and uncivilized society.  Doctors have become punching bags for  all the malaise and inadequacy of prevalent health system. It is really appalling to see the impunity with which these incidents are happening.

Resident doctors of Sanjay Gandhi Memorial hospital in Mangolpuri   Delhi  are on  strike  for the second day. The doctors went on a flash strike on Monday after one of the  doctors  was attacked by a mob. They were  carrying  knives  and wanted to kill the doctor.

Government ‘s unwillingness or failure  to assure doctor’s protection will have deep ramifications on future of medical profession.  Role of organizations like Human right commission and other right’s bodies is also questionable.  Doctor bodies have also failed to take some concrete action other than showing some concern.  Role of media, celebrities, film stars in spreading the hatred against medical profession as a whole is unpardonable.

Every incident of verbal, legal, physical assault is a trust breaker.  It will hit  trust  and empathy of doctors  towards patients. Patients will get their revenge for naturally occurring disease, but society will be looser in the long run. Since the authorities, who matter have chosen to remain silent on the issue, doctors will have to find some way to save themselves.

Doctors at J J Hospital Mumbai assaulted: Indicator of lawless and uncivilized society


           Attacks and assaults on doctors appears to be  one of the indicators of  a lawless,uncivilized society, poor governance and  health system. Doctor have become punching bags for all the malaise prevalent in the system. A failing system which is unable to provide health to people and security to doctors. The system  hides behind their working children and doctors and presents them as punching bags. The  impunity with which attendant easily and brutally assault doctors is really appalling, that too  all over the country should be  shameful  to law enforcing agencies. Are we a lawless society? More problematic is the government apathy and silence of human right commission. Here comes the point that what is the role of our doctor’s organizations and parent hospital and institute.

         Why  in each and every case of doctor’ s assault, doctor’s bodies and organization do not file a case in the court against the  responsible  authority for security. Non action by Doctor’s Associations, bodies and organizations, not able to take a stand for their children is  most disappointing.

                                unwillingness or failure of government  to prevent such attacks on doctors will have deep ramifications on future of medical profession. Silence of authorities, human right commission is really appalling.  Role of doctor associations, parent institutes have been spineless and not encouraging.  Role of media, celebrities, film stars in spreading the hatred against the medical profession and creating an environment of mistrust is unpardonable, where stray incidents were portrayed as normal routine just to earn money and fame. Ultimately doctors have been left to fend for themselves individually or with friend groups.

 Discussion always revolves around the trust of the patients on the doctor. But in reality, situation is getting opposite gradually. Empathy, sympathy, compassion and trust  of the doctor towards the patient, will definitely get a hit after these incidents. Everyday  the news of assaults on doctors, court cases against doctors, negative projection of the medical profession   in the media are viewed  by doctor’s community anxiously.  Attack  on doctor  at  J J Hospital Mumbai is just another shameful incident today. 

        Merely taking some token  action and showing  protest will not solve the problem. It does not compensate for the  damage done to medical profession. Sympathy, compassion and trust of the doctors towards patients will definitely reduce. Who will be  the ultimate sufferer, does not need a Einstein brain to predict.

          Formal and informal discussions among medical professional at various forums  have taken a centre stage about the changing scenario. It  gives a perception that patients are loosing faith in doctors. That perception is not incorrect. But what remains hidden is that every incidence of verbal, legal, and physical assault  brings some kind of feeling of insecurity in minds of all doctors, who deal with patients.

                    This insecurity or fear of the uncertainty tends to affect the thinking process of doctors and the way they practice medicine or deal with the patients. Many will like to be defensive in practice, or try not to treat very sick patients.  Why would someone try complex surgeries with risk involved? Few will limit themselves to follow protocols. Going extra mile with risk, which not everyone will like to take. Many will become health managers or  do something else than do active clinical work. Who should risk his life while doing routine work?

  Every incidence of verbal, legal, and physical assault is a trust breaker. It is not only erosion of patient’s trust on doctors but the vice versa is also true.  As  a rule of nature, as violence increases, compassion decreases.

    Patients might get their revenge for the  naturally occurring disease, but they will lose compassion and trust of doctors in the long run. If that is the way to impart justice in this era, doctors will have to find some way to save themselves.

Hospital, Doctors fined for unfair trade practices: Doctors “ be clinically and legally correct so as to save themselves”


 

Since Hannurabi times  1750BC, medical profession or health care has been regulated. For thousands of years, attempts  have  been made, laws enacted  to regulate or control medical treatments or doctors. It has never been perfect.  In today’s time, where medico-legal issues have become as important as much as treatment, it is strange to find such practices, where transplant was done without valid license. More importantly, it was done in a well known hospital in Delhi and not in unknown location.

Going by the news item,  Jaipur Golden Hospital New Delhi conducted renal transplant without having a valid license for the same in 2006. It could have gone unnoticed, in case  everything had gone well. But  in today’s scenario, no one accepts even small and routine  complications. So doing a procedure like transplant without license  is asking for trouble.

Medical fraternity is clear that there are no treatments without complications.  Even simple procedures can get complicated. Therefore, doing anything which is   legally not correct, can be a blunder.  Consequences of even little mistakes can be disastrous in current environment, which is not very supportive to doctors.  Temptation  for  doing procedures without being legally correct  can be many, like holding  a license previously, or just to maintain a continuity of performing a special surgery. Money generated may  or may not be a great incentive in such circumstances . Reason can be as simple as to continue doing procedure while license is awaited and take  temporary invalidity of licensing requirements lightly.

Legalities should be taken in correct perspective always.  Doctors can save themselves by just following well laid protocols and  legal requirements. This is not right  for doctors   doing  procedures against the law or without legal permissions. Because  no one, including patient will not support the doctor in adverse circumstances.

Doctors  can save themselves by   doing procedures, which are clinically and legally correct.

Real story of a female doctor assault: serving an uncivilized society


 

Few words here can’t describe the plight of a female doctor, who was brutally assaulted by a mob at her residence, for no fault of hers. This incidence happened about a year back, about 200 KM away from Delhi.

It was an evening time and a boy had an accident with a bus. He was brought to a community health centre.  Female medical officer who had her residence inside the hospital in staff quarters examined the patient and found that he was already dead. She explained the situation to the family members with due sensitivity, did all the paper work and returned to her residence in about an hour. Mob kept on gathering and after half an hour, they barged into the house of the lady medical officer.

They dragged her by hair in front of her teenage daughter. Mob started assaulting her with fists and legs along with a rod. Her daughter cried and shouted for help.   Mob even tried to set her on fire. This brutal and devilish assault continued till neighbours from other staff quarters saved her with great difficulty and took her away. Mob continued rampage in her house and hospital, trying to break everything.

She sustained severe head injuries and was admitted in a hospital for about ten days. What was her fault and why mob did this to her? Is being a doctor and working in remote area her fault? Everybody knew that the reason for death of the boy was what happened outside the hospital.  There was an errant bus driver, who was responsible.  Then why was she made a punching bag for venting out emotions of the bereaved relatives. Nothing and really nothing can justify this barbaric act. Emotions should not be allowed to take such a demonic form.

This is simply jungle raj, goonism and  expression of a most  uncivilized kind of society, which simply cannot be excused by any sort of reasoning. The incident was protested by the professional bodies as is the routine and after few day things normalized for everybody else except that terrorised family. The said lady medical officer took posting elsewhere and as is usual, nothing much happened to the accused.

 

Woman doctor assault : Era worse than MAHABHARATA for female doctors

There was again same silence and little concern shown by our media, courts, prominent people, celebrities, human right commission, woman right activists and women commission. This again brings forth the hypocrisy of these people and organizations, who otherwise cry about woman rights and empowerment.  Whenever a female is assaulted, there is an outrage but the same support is not extended to a female if she is a doctor. Such bestiality should create havoc in minds of civilized people but this apathy to such incidents clearly indicates otherwise. Have we become so uncivilized that an incident such as this just remains as a small news item in a local paper? Can’t we see that such incidents are harbinger of many more in future? It is important to realize that this is the time to unify and condemn such episodes vehemently and prominently so that the miscreants realize that they cannot get away with it.

Doctors in remote area, where there are minimal medical facilities, doctors are  at more risk  than ever. In larger institutions and cities, doctors still gather and have some support. But at remote places,  they are at mercy of local goons with no protection.

Beti bachao Beti padhao vs Violence against female doctors

Violence against female doctors: Silence of human and  woman right commissions

Apollo Hospital fined 5 lakh: “Doc, Talk less, write more”.Doctor save yourself by “documenting the communication”


Doctors are trained to treat patients and  that is they keep on  doing. But in today’s era that is not enough. They are expected to examine, investigate, diagnosis , treat correctly   and communicate to the family or patient. Everything should be speedy and  financially suitable to the patient’s expectations. Even if that is done, the things do not end here. Doctor need to document, what has been  communicated to the family.  It is hard to believe that  doctor at a hospital like Apollo,  who really did well to diagnose a disease like SLE and still did not communicate. Yes, news item mentions that in file that  there was no evidence of communication. Doctors still behave like doctors and do not treat patient as consumer. Usually , doctor trust their patients  and there is lot of verbal communication takes place. Verbally they sympathize, communicate  and  tell many things which are not documented as a routine.

The Delhi State Consumer Commission, in its judgment, made it essential for a hospital to disclose to the patients or their attendants, the line of treatment and the potential risks involved in it.
The judgment came in connection with the death of a 23-year-old student, who died during a treatment at  Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in 2004.

Many times patients are sincere enough to admit to  verbal  communication. But sometimes when  during ongoing  medico legal lawsuits, a feeling  of revenge prevails  or as guided by lawyers, patient  may not admit  to the verbal communication.  Specially if verbal communication is not documented in file.

How to  save yourself  by  “documenting  the communication”

  • examine, investigate, diagnosis , treat correctly and communicate
  • Make a note of plan of treatment and prognosis, and communicate to patient or attendants.
  • Sign yourself and ask the patient or nearest relative to sign.
  • It is not uncommon that relative will refuse to sign. In that case just write a note and mention that attendant refuses to sign.
  • It is also a common issue that after listening to everything, relative will say that he does not understand or will ask his uncle or aunt. These are difficult moments and commonly happen. Just make a note of everything. Besides it wastes crucial time.
  • Can use camera for communication in difficult cases.
  • Never rely on verbal communication. It has little value.  Commonly people refuse to admit verbal communication, and will say that they were not told anything.

As time for everything is limited in life, be it treatment, communication, consent or documentation. So message is clear for doctors. “Talk less and write more”. You will be judged by documents after many years. Therefore,  do save the patient, but save yourself also.

 

 

Two doctors from Fortis Hospital arrested – How doctors may save themselves by learning from such cases.


Doctor,  do save the patient but save yourself also.

Doctors continue to treat and save  many patients in the years they work. But present law and regulatory system does not take into account those years of  good and hard work. It does  treat doctor as a petty criminal for some single mistake or unfortunate incident. Law just deals with it in a harshest possible manner.  Patient may have died because of disease, but when in side the hospital, it is very easy to relate death with actions or inaction of doctors.  Specially because inquiries are always done  with  retrospective analysis, with wisdom of hindsight. Although there is a feeling among doctors that what is really happening these days, something may not be very appropriate, but there is no room  for leniency here.

News of this kind brings tsunami of fear in minds of doctors all over. It can be anyone in such situation, where  it is just   that a particular doctor did not have that eye for danger in that moment. The  doctor did  not realize or anticipate the gravity of  the consequence and outcome of the patient in real time. It may be difficult to pick up or just not take the situation very seriously. That can simply be poor training or working without good application of mind. But  looking retrospectively, situation becomes clear.

Two senior doctors of Fortis Hospital in Haryana’s Gurgaon were arrested on Friday for a “delay in administration of emergency medicines” to a 51-year-old woman, who died of cardiac arrest last year, police said.

 

      Lessons to be learnt:  What options doctors have at present? Because they are at receiving end always. They have to learn from such cases and do something in their routine to prevent disasters. How can they save themselves?

  1. All patients to be seen by primary consultants or someone from concerned unit at the earliest. It is important as emergency doctor may  not be equipped to deal with specialty  problem.  Prompt diagnosis by specialty doctor and written findings are important.
  2. Initial assessment should be quick and with in minimum time.
  3. Good communication and documentation of the problem.
  4. Assess the patient and make a note of treatment to be given.
  5. Document the plan of action, that is investigation and management.
  6. Avoid phone call consultations and leaving treatment loosely. Well thought documented plan should be in place.
  7. Situation may be different for smaller nursing homes. Treatment of an emergency will remain same, whether patient goes to bigger or smaller hospital.   Nursing homes may not be equipped for all the emergencies. So challenge before the smaller hospitals will be to identify the problem and diagnose them quickly  and  if required send them to proper  hospital, rather risking themselves in today’s times.
  8. Aspiring doctors can have a cue about what they are getting into. So as to adapt to prevalent adverse circumstances for doctors, if they aspire to be one.

 

Doctor, do save the patient but save yourself also.

 

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