On Tuesday, after a railway accident victim succumbed to her injuries, her relatives assaulted the on-duty surgeon at Central Hospital, Ulhasnagar. The vicious attack left Dr Shashikant Dode with a fractured rib, an injured eardrum and several bruises all over his body. Three youngsters were arrested in the case by the Central police station. The deceased patient was a 38-year-old who was run over by a CST-bound train while crossing the tracks.
Unfortunately, the assault on the doctor is part of an increasingly familiar pattern. Doctors tend to patients, something unfortunate happens, like the death of the patient, and relatives go berserk. At times, they assault the doctor and vandalise the clinic or hospital. The fact that doctors are now reaching out to private security agencies to protect them shows how serious the problem is. Several hospitals have also hired additional security to protect doctors, who have been advised to meet patients’ relatives with security in tow, in case of death.
Recently, the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) sent a letter to the Chief Minister to look into this particular matter. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also cited figures on violence against doctors indicating that it was a global issue.
This is a sad commentary on the patient-doctor relationship. The increasing chasm has to be filled through dialogue and, at the grassroots level, medical students must be extensively counselled on how to handle the patient’s family. Even in this ‘instant’ age, doctors must give enough time to answer queries and quell the fears of the family.
Having said that, people need to have patience and not automatically jump to the conclusion that there has been negligence if a relative passes away. Heat of the moment cannot be an excuse for violence. If the family feels hard done by, they have recourse to other methods like consumer courts. Beating up medical professionals is reprehensible and in fact, chips away at the very base of a patient-doctor equation, which is that of trust.