mid-day editorial: Focus on healing, not harming

Buried under poll news was a report about a hospital in South Kolkata’s Ekbalpore area, which was vandalised on Wednesday by an irate mob. The facility was ransacked after a 16-year-old girl, suffering from abdominal pain, died in the hospital. According to reports, she passed away before doctors could operate on her and her family alleged that the teenager died of medical negligence. Within minutes, supported by a huge mob, they embarked on a violent spree on the hospital premises.

While the ground floor of the facility bore the brunt of the violence, some hospital staff were thrashed, while others reported missing wallets and cell phones. The hospital has stopped admitting patients following the incident.

This scenario will resonate with Mumbaikars, who have seen facilities being attacked over what the kin of patients consider “medical negligence”. While the cause may be subjective, strict action needs to be taken when it comes to punishing those who vandalise public property and attack doctors. There has been an unfortunate rise in the number of such cases across the country.

But efforts need to be taken to ensure medical staff at hospitals do not live in the constant shadow of fear. It compromises their ability to offer the best possible treatment too.

It’s astounding to note how aggressive our society has truly become. Should doctors consider hiring security guards like VVIPs? Must top surgeons seek Z-class security from the government? It seems we are fast approaching these consequences. Families of patients cannot resort to violence to deal with their loss, astragic as it is.

A life, once lost, cannot be returned, no matter how much property is vandalised or how many many innocent lives are assaulted.

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