The endocrinologist and my guts

21 May,2024 06:51 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  C Y Gopinath

The doctor was angry with the columnist, calling him biased, disrespectful and opinionated to run down the noble profession of medicine. Would mid-day dare to publish his words?

In my column of two weeks ago, I spoke of today’s corporate doctors, their commercial goals and interests and the need for a patient to be careful when putting their lives into an unknown doctor’s hands. illustration by C Y Gopinath using Dall-e 3

If you have the guts, publish my reply in the same paper."

The ‘same paper' was mid-day and ‘my reply' was the letter I'd received moments earlier from the endocrinologist. Though he has publicly identified himself both in his email to me as well as on various social media platforms like X and YouTube, I will respect his privacy and refer to him just as Dr B.

His reply took exception to my column of two weeks ago, in which I spoke of today's corporate doctors, their commercial goals and interests and the need for a patient to be careful when putting their lives into an unknown doctor's hands. I cited several cases of patients either misdiagnosed or misled by their doctors. The main case concerned a man wrongly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and recommended a costly and difficult treatment called the Whipple procedure. After 15 biopsies failed to confirm the cancer, he was set free to get on his life.

Dr B's letter explains why my statements, which he dismissed as typical shoddy journalism, aggravated him so much.

1. You have made accusations regarding surgeons in general which are mere generalisations and biased opinions without any data-based study. Taking one example, commenting on it without any knowledge of the subject, [you have] allowed your bias free reign.

3. The Whipple procedure is standard surgery and not something very complicated as described by you. The operation description given by you is an exaggeration made to scare the reader who isn't a medical professional. This too shows your inherent bias and lack of objectivity.

4. . . .Taking one very, very rare occurrence, to bash the medical profession is typical of opinionated, self-appointed, know-it-all guardians of society like yourself.

6. I take strong objection to the tone and tenor of your article and lack of respect for a noble profession. You have absolutely no idea of anything remotely to do with medicine, but the lack of respect shown by you and the misleading generalisations and conclusions made are abhorrent.

8. If you don't respect or trust doctors, you should treat yourself in the future with the help of Google, quacks like acupuncturists or maybe tarot card readers, astrologers and palmists.

The doctor is upset. That's strong language and stronger emotions. But ad hominem attacks are never good strategies in any discussion, so rather than hitting back, I did the very thing Dr B deplores: I googled him.

He is a surgeon with 36 years of experience if not eminence. He is employed by a large corporate hospital chain in Chembur, whose website describes him as an endocrinology specialist. His other occupation is making money through playing the stock market. As founder, owner and Chief Technical Analyst of an investment consulting firm, he regularly dispenses his wisdom, insights and predictions on his YouTube channel.

I couldn't talk with Dr B but I did find a freewheeling interview he gave on YouTube about a year ago in which he unwittingly admits doctors ain't what they used to be.

The interviewer asks him about his views on Indian healthcare.

Dr B: In today's society if you have money you have respect. The doctor too is part of that same society. Once we had no private colleges and 75 per cent of doctors made it on their own merit without paying anyone money, and came to serve their patients. These days medical colleges are private and parents pay money to make sure their children become doctors.

Does he believe today's corporate doctors serve their employers' corporate goals rather than patients'? Yes, he says, but you can't blame them for it.

Dr B: A private hospital will force the doctor to do tests on certain machines, and if he doesn't meet a certain quota of tests and bring in a certain income, they threaten to remove him from the position. If he starts a private practice, those who refer patients to him will demand a commission of 30 to 40 per cent. What is he to do? Nobody thinks about these things.

Wouldn't it be unethical for doctors to put their corporate masters before their patients?

Dr B: Everyone blames the doctor, which is wrong. I'm not saying doctors are not at fault but you have to understand the background. The doctor is forced to start following certain bad practices against his will, and later that becomes habitual for him.

If he starts his own hospital, like any other business it will require investment going into crores. How do you think he will recover the money?

Is Dr B himself pressured by his corporate employer to "use certain machines and perform certain tests, following practices against his will until they become habitual"?

Dr B: I am against all that. I have never done any such practices.

Right, got it. Doctors are not all that noble any more but that's because they are the system's victims. Dr B, though, doesn't want you to think he's like them. He's a noble-type old-school doctor, just very good at making money. But if a journalist says all that, scream like hell. So that's all right then.

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