Thursday, July 8, 2010

Can you trust your Doctor anymore?

Long, long ago we used have family Doctors. Whenever you fell sick you went running to your guardian angel expecting him to cure you of your misery. Mostly a bespectacled, benign looking old gentleman, his chamber was usually an annexe in his house. A few gulps of that ugly pink, bitter tasting oral suspension and you were up and running, back to your pranks. If your eyes hurt from too much of reading in the dark you went to the eye Doctor and to the Dentist to get your cavities filled. They were more like family members reprimanding you for your indulgences. In college our “Guardian- Angel” was a rather good looking fellow, far from old, but you usually don’t get attracted to men who smell of Dettol.

How life has changed. Your eye Doctor has a fancy new title “Ophthalmologist”. If your vision is getting hazy you go to the Optometrist. Tummy ache? Which part? If it’s the kidney you rush to the Nephrologist not to be confused with the Neurologists meant to calm your nerves. Your liver is taken care of by the Hepatologist and not the Haematologist meant for your bloody troubles. For your intestinal woes you need to rush to the Gastroenterologist. Does it mean that we can now fall sick without a care in the world and expect miraculous recovery? After all there is a specialist tending to each miniscule part of our achy-breaky body. Newer, spiffier five star hospitals are mushrooming all over the city. So is your Doctor, he/she with-a-tough- to -spell title still your guardian angel?

In this age of specialization, the General Physician is almost dead. If you are unfortunate enough to fall sick, the Doctor despite his many degrees will be more often be as clueless as you are. Rarely will he dare to diagnose your condition. I guess after all these years of fancy sounding diseases; he doesn’t trust his judgement anymore. Instead you are expected to undergo a battery of unnecessary laboratory tests. Hey how about utilizing your mine of knowledge and making Hippocrates a little proud?

You may have guessed by now, my brush with the medical fraternity has not exactly been pleasant. The husband doesn’t fall sick too often, but when he does the virulent viruses fall so deeply in love with him, that they refuse to let go. They grow, touching unfathomed heights and try to forge a long term relationship with him. We rush teary eyed to the Doctor, expecting deliverance. But that rarely happens. With a grim expression- Your condition is indeed very rare (I have no frigging idea). Let me prescribe the strongest, the most expensive antibiotics for you. A week later.... Uh O, you look even worse. Let’s try another line of treatment now-gullible guinea pigs are hard to come by.

We are living in paranoid times. Each new year ushers in a brand new disease and constantly mutating ailments. Unfortunately most denizens of the medical fraternity feed on our paranoia. Oh you have high blood pressure at such a young age, that’s a very serious condition.....With a sombre expression....We need to hospitalize you as soon as possible. You are saying it is a hereditary condition? Ha, are you trying to tell me you know more than I do? You need EEG, ECG, Echo Doppler tests...... Dear boy you might even have a brain tumour. Why don’t we run a few more tests on you? We will have our panel of specialists drop by in the evening for a little tet-a-tet, chargeable per appearance of course. Ah... the reports just came in. Oh Dear, there’s nothing wrong with you. Hmm, I guess it is a hereditary condition, but we just wanted to be sure. 

How many stories I have heard and experienced; of gynaecologist whose patients always end up a with a C section, of a reputed Paediatrician whose incorrect medication had my 4 year old daughter vomiting blood, simple procedures being unnecessarily blown out of proportion. Armed with information, experts can create an unspoken fear. Fear, that you might die of a heart attack if you don’t get the angioplasty done. What if your fibroids are malignant? Is your kidney giving you too much trouble, let’s just remove it. 

I am not saying good Doctors do not exist anymore but their number is dwindling alarmingly. Exorbitant medical care ensures that health is a luxury that only the rich can enjoy. Ironically medical insurance is available only to the young, fit and the healthy. Dare to have a medical condition and no Insurance Company will touch you even with a barge pole!

Why even as an outpatient I am expected to give medical insurance details? When a Doctor sees a patient, is he looking at someone to cure or is he eyeing his pay-check. Me, I only go to the Doctor as a last resort because I know this will only be the beginning of a long, agonising ordeal. But this has only reaffirmed my faith in God. I pray that my near and dear ones never fall sick and if they do, God save them.


  1. Sadly, very true. But hey, my dad smells of Dettol, and mum did fall for him. But maybe it was because she reeked of it too. The next time you need an opinion, or just a competent doctor among the long-titles baboons, lemme know.

  2. Excellent portrayal of doctors. But looks like you have tried allopathy for everything. Allopathy is not a man made science. Go for nature treatments or homoeopathy. I won't say ayurvedic because of too much pollution in the herbs these days.


  3. Me too. I do not like to visit the doc, coz I have had doctors tell me I am having the viral and then give me antibiotics. Now, I know enough bio to say that there has not been an antibiotic made to combat viruses!

  4. a brilliant essay on the medical fraternity as it exists now! and with your concluding sentence, looks like we are back to the stone ages!! lol!!

  5. When my dad had his first heart failure, the hospital put him in a dingy room with peeling greenish muck that passed for paint, the room itself probably 10X12 at best, half of it for another family, separated by one of those matal frames with a cloth suspension. The toilet was way down the block and the general feeling was like a WWII Soviet makeshift facility in the middle of the siege of St. Petersburg.

    I mentioned the magic word - insurance, and voila - in a flash of semi-psychedelic haze, the room became an A/C suite with a television and attached bathroom, sunroof and all. All hail capitalism!

    Superbly crafted, O queen of the keyboard.

  6. And yeah, I'm a homoeopathy fanatic for the last 23 years .. so totally agree with Sameer. It's worked the kind of wonders that I'd rather not gush out here for the risk of being branded a sycophant.

  7. ahh so true..but here in UK..since medical care is free..the strongest medicine you will be prescribed is Paracetamol...for most illnesses..which is sometimes quite scary...and you are actually begging for a stronger medicine..

  8. You have narrated something very deeprooted in our society. My mom is a doctor as well, but homoeo.She follows their age old methods.I haven't had any sort of tests in as far as i could remember.
    Well,ever since medical care became an industry, patients are just seen as customers, not as ill people.They dont care if the patient has a simple flu,they will say,go and have this and that test.When the bill comes, any healthy person can have heart attache. There should be strict regulation over these mushrooming private hospitals,not just that improving government hospitals facilities are also important.

  9. Very real topic there Purba.We as parents are so disgusted with the medical system here in the US.So far we have been fortunate enough not to have to visit a doctor too often. For the regular illnesses, we use homeopathy. This was a conscious decision we made before he was born and are trying to stick to it. Several years ago I used to know one Guardian Angel on Nelson Manickam Road in Chennai.Now it is all about how good(or bad) the insurance coverage is and what is the much needed test versus the good to have billing to the insurance company. I hope your husband feels better soon.Now that you have a post inspired by the viral infection out of the way. :)

  10. Sugandha...Was missing you so badly. Avi had an eye ailment which refused to let go and we were desperately looking for a good ophthalmologist.

    And damn I should have written "the medical fraternity excluding the wonderful Khoslas".

    Sameer...Oh no, we try to avoid allopathy as much as possible. Unfortunately when you are burning with fever or your eye develops a nasty infection, you have no choice but run to the nearest specialist.

    Aathira..Exactly!!! why always antibiotics when a simple paracetamol will suffice.

    magiceye..Yea, suddenly the Vedas make a lot more sense :)

  11. Krishna's Bytes on Homeopathy? why not!

    Nithin..Not only strict regulations for medical facilities but a regulatory authority for Medical Insurance as well.

    Lazy Pineapple..Now that you are coming back, you know what to expect.

    le embrouille blogueur ...Yes, this article was born out of angst and frustration and just penning it down has been a cathartic experience.

  12. One sneeze and you can land up in a diagnostic centre and finally in the ICU till they realise all you needed was a Crocin.
    This is all due to multi speciality hospitals supported by MNC insurance companies.

  13. haha! so true..."the general physician is dead"
    also, one needs a very deep pocket to go to a doctor these days...

  14. Hi,there-chanced here via LPs blog where u left a comment..and,a coincidence-our blog backgrounds are same(I love books)and even my blog-name(amitsmusings) sounds like A-Musing..haha..ah well.:)
    Over to the post-it made me really smile-yes,docs then(and'then'means barely a decade or two back) and now are totally different.From the 'bespactacled,benign looking old gent'(You described our family dentist from the 70s,perfectly-he's no longer in the world,God bless his soul)..
    It reminds me of a joke'Why are doctor's prescriptions so squiggly these days that you can't read them and only the chemist can?'...answer'He's only telling the chemist'Meine to loot liya,ab tumhaari baari hai'.:)
    Will be back to read some more.TC:)

  15. B K Chowla and that's precisely why we don't trust our Doctors anymore.

    whatsupdoc a deep pocket and infinite patience.

    Amit..Yea,too much of a coincidence.

    And why after years Doctors still "practice". Good joke btw :))

  16. Recently I went to a doctor to get my blood pressure checked. After checking he said my BP was too high, and would need immediate treatment. I was shocked to hear that. I told him I would start the treatment from the next day and left. On my way home I stopped by in another hospital to recheck. My BP was perfectly normal.

    Faulty apparatus or money minded, I almost became a Hyper tension patient.

  17. I guess we are moving towards a very money minded society, in case of accident fatalities, I guess in private hospitals, they are willing to let the person die if there is no money up front rather than treating him first. I remember reading an article in RD long back where an Indian met with an accident in the states, where he mentioned that in case of fatalities etc. it is mandatory for the doctors there to treat the person there, saving life comes first, always. And agree on the inefficiency of doctors at diagnosis, most hospitals are ready to hospitalise a person for tests, even for a fever...

    Btw you have a little something over at my blog

  18. Today’s western medical system is specializing on removing the symptoms than causes. Over a period of time, most of us have lost our body’s natural healing power, by administering toxic chemicals called medicines and now our immune system itself does not work for most part. I believe everyone must read “Quantum Healing” written by Dr.Deepak Chopra to understand this much more fully.
    With best wishes.
    T N Neelakantan

  19. Joshi...Really?? Here we are, swapping our horror stories.

    The Analyst..If you don't have money, you might as well perish. So many of our accident victims die an untimely death because of lack of medical attention. The complicated procedures and the twisted system kills the good samaritan in us.

    T N Neelakantan..Removing the symptoms and killing our immunity system effectively. No wonder so many of us are resorting to alternative therapies and holistic healing.

    Will try to get hold of this book. Thank you

  20. you've been tagged on my blog

  21. There was a time when family doctors used to come home on request but now they flatly refuse excusing lack of time and rush at dispensary!

  22. Just finished dissing out dentists...I avoid hospitals with manic zeal...As usual, I loved your post..:)

  23. Capitalism and fairness dont go together.

    While practice makes a doctor perfect, it also makes him a good businessman.!

  24. S.R.Ayyangar...They are minting money all right.

    Journomuse.. Me too and if you are hospitalized by some cruel twist of fate, they refuse to let go of you.

    GB..Whatever happened to nobility and all that crap!

  25. Interesting topic, and somewhat controversial too. In my childhood days I remember going to a doctor who has a clinic next to our house . Her power injection does all the trick...doctors were seen as god, indeed they are but only few now. We must also look into our education system today even if u fail 12th grade if you have money u can become a doctor. And those doctors are not confident of what they do and it ends in tragedy of our life...I hope you will definitely write a post on our cash rich favoured education system. Waiting for it. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Very well!!
    Even i feel such about doctors...but not one can say they provide lives...but however today greediness has changed the world..
    But, nice GOOD WORK..Keep it Up.

  27. Its easy to be sentimentally sententious about something one does not understand. To throw mud on a person is not difficult, to besmirch an entire profession just too easy. Unfortunately one often finds persons only too willing to acquiesce in such ignorant slanderings.
    To begin with, I would like to draw your attention to the simple fact that since the days of your bespectacled, benign looking general practitioner who dispensed those magic all cure potions, average life-expectancy has about doubled. In that gentleman's days,diseases like tuberculosis and typhoid fever and malaria ensured that people never lived long enough to suffer a heart attack and receive a costly angioplasty. I certainly think that this is due to advancement in medical technology and treatment. Allopathy, not Ayurveda or homeopathy or naturopathy have been responsible for this significant achievement.

    With the growth in medical knowledge it is impossible for any person to have complete knowledge about every part of the body, and that is why specialization has evolved. And yet it takes atleast ten years of arduous study and expenses worth lakhs of rupees before a person can call himself a neurologist or a cardiologist. Add to that the astronomical cost of real estate and medical equipments and can you still expect doctors to provide quality medical services at subsidized rates?

    As far as doctors ordering unnecessary diagnostic tests is concerned, I say that clinical skills can only indicate the presence of some disease, but no doctor however skillful can claim to have the ability to x-ray his way into the body of his patient and determine the exact diagnosis. Diagnostic tests have to performed, many a times to be sure that disease is not present. Consider madam, that if your doctor relied on his clinical skill and missed a cancer in your body, you will be standing at his clinic waving a legal notice in his face and demanding crores in compensation for medical negligence.

  28. Anto..Have money, will buy. Financial clout can move mountains! But people who buy seats in Engineering and Medical colleges rarely succeed in their careers.

    manaskhatri ..Thank you, glad you liked it.

    doctoratlarge...Good Doctors do exist, but they are far and few in between. We cannot ignore the fact that rampant commercialization does exist- I would suggest you read "Policy holders are fleeced" in TOI,July 11.

    Everything that I have expressed is what my family has been put through. I could have narrated much more, but my post is not a medium to air my personal grievances.

  29. How is it that commercialization is good for all professions except one? Or is the medical profession the one chosen to be slaughtered on the altar of morality?

  30. thats why i miss my grandpaa
    he was the best homeopathic doctor.i always used to run to him for every problem and with just 2-3 dose we could get cure.i loved being sick when i was young because then i would get sweet pills.
    and now for any doctor minimum counsultation fees r 100 rs

  31. Well written, but unfortunately, a very one sided post. the way you go on makes us docs sound real bad, and in reality, its not like that.

    i have just graduated a few months ago, but i earn peanuts. in fact, i am still dependent on my parents. i am nearing 26 and yet i am not sure what life has in store for me over the next few years. i earn less money per hour than a semi skilled laborer employed in a constructing business. i have spent 6 years for this degree and am going to spend at least another 4 to get one more. and if super specialization calls, another 2-4.

    this sounds good as a life to you?

    surely not...

    and as for the fleecing of the patients in the private set ups, why blame the docs when the onus is on the firm owning the place to control the costs. these days docs have little power to control the workings of the corporate world.

    it is your blog and of course you are entitled to your opinion, but i must register my disdain at a very nicely written but unbalanced view of the state of affairs...

  32. MMB...Everything is now a business - from politics to education to healthcare :(

    Anant...Just 100 Rs? where?

    Pranab... What I have written is not a misrepresentation of facts. I can quote thousands of cases of misery and helplessness.

    Feel free to express your opinion in a post authored by you. I will be more than happy to feature you as a guest writer.

  33. Well ophthalmologists used to exist earlier too...people still call eye doctor in layman's language.
    Anyway..though I understand your point and bad experiences as the reason behind your grudge...I would like to point out the fact that doctors come from the same society which produces lawyers, engineers,sportsmen and politicians...they go through enormous problems of admission, bribery and corruption..then how can we expect them to behave as angels?? everyone is fleecing in their it the hawaldaar or the wakil or the contractor in CWG or your doctor!! The problem is when common people equate docs to gods and expect godly behavior! every such behavior from every such professional should evoke equal reaction...not only docs.

  34. Just today as I read your post I heard of my neighbor having to go for an operation for the baby. Was at a friends place where there was a gathering when we heard the news.
    The doctor said that the the baby can be in danger and that she needed to operate, reason high blood pressure of the mother.
    When this was revealed by me to all those present another friend who given birth a few months back at the same hospital cited that she had been given the same reason and had to go under the knife.
    I think medicine has rather turned into butchery if such incidents happen for making money.

  35. Reema..The day a lawyer or any other professional for that matter tries to fleece me, I'll write a lengthier diatribe. And the least I expect from my Doctor is honesty. Is it too much to ask?

    Juzar...And to think that woman might end up with complications for the rest of her life.

  36. Nice post ... I always avoid doc for small reasons.

  37. Somehow in my non-native place I've managed to find a doctor that we can call a "family doctor". (All my family members here go to him!)

    The best part, though, is that he has thrown me out saying that theres nothing wrong. No 'over-medication' as is the habit these days :)

  38. Coral..I avoid doctors and medicines.

    Kartikay...In Delhi? Can I have his address please?

  39. Purba, I like what you've written and almost agree with it but something's holding me back.
    I have to agree with Pranab as well.
    In response to your suggestion to him, I would like to write a post portraying the other side of the coin. Will have it up in a day and if you want you can feature it as a guest blog on your blog!

  40. Purba, The rebuttal is up.
    Before you and your readers click the link, I just want to say that I agree with most of what you have said but just want to put up a contra view.
    There is nothing personal in this post, but just like yours it's been written with some animosity so please bear with me on that!
    Hope to read more of your posts! You have a follower :-)

  41. Oops. Forgot to insert the link!

  42. Purba interesting post and most interesting discussion too !
    THe problem with specialization is that all the specialists are like the blind men feeling the Elephant - each thinking that his truth is absolute .Whereas the body functions as a unified entity . Despite what the good doctor says in defence above fact is that even in a routine issue like a normal Pregnancy the woman is subjected to so much diagnosis that she starts feeling like a mere receptacle for an embryo rather than a human being.Probably some diagnosis is good but more is not better.

  43. Excellent post Purba, I have had more than my share of encounters with Doctors -- most of them now treat reports, not patients. They are losing basic diagnostic acumen.

  44. Hi, Now you can post your article in audio format at, Send your articles in document format to We convert your articles in to audio format and publish it in site for free.

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    1. sorry Mr.Arumugam while opening avast shows this site contain Malware .

  45. wonderful post.. many more to think about Doc.

  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

  47. Hey, i am a doc, and i say, a real good description about the way we go about our job. Infact, i just say, am really happy that people with this awareness of health, reducing the responsibility on us(DOCTORS). Hope u find ur new age GUARDIAN ANGEL who is not a doctor and definitely beyond it.

  48. I hope you know that there is a speciality called Family Medicine which is not a very valued specialist in Indian Healthcare Scheme of things. Please read my post -

  49. So basically we as is trying to solve this universal problem. is a platform for users/patients to make informed health decisions.At sehat, you can find /research and choose doctors , hospitals and fitness centers. And also Ask a doctor for "free" .


Psst... let me know what you are thinking.


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