Assault on doctors on duty needs to end

Assault on doctors on duty needs to end

The implementation of the Doctors Protection Act 2010 in letter and in spirit at the earliest is the need of the hour.

The recent trend of assaulting doctors on duty in Karnataka and different parts of the country is heart-breaking and definitely a condemnable act. It usually happens in the unfortunate event of the death of a patient or due to the lack of infrastructure to treat the patient, especially when the doctor advises the patient to be shifted to an advanced centre of medical care.

As in any other profession there could be lapses in dedication by a few individuals, but it would be unfair to generalise this for the entire medical fraternity. Taking law in their hands by an unruly crowd is certainly not an option in a democratic setup.

No doctor want the patient under his/her care to die. The patients and their near and dear ones should understand that medical science is not a perfect science and that the doctors on duty are doing their best. A few of them are working in remote areas serving the humanity against all odds.

They put the current knowledge and skills within the infrastructure and facilities available to heal and treat. They cannot be held responsible for a death due to serious polytrauma caused by reckless driving or the pathetic traffic discipline on our roads or the underlying lifestyle-related illnesses of the patients.

Nor are they responsible for unavailability of beds or ventilators or emergency medicines in the public hospitals as the onus of providing these lies with the government.

In such a situation, assaulting the doctors is akin to stone pelting or a terrorist attack on our soldiers who are guarding the frontiers against all odds. More disturbing is the apathy of the judiciary and lawmakers who have turned a blind eye to the plight of doctors.

The Bombay High Court, in its ruling last week, asked, “How can the doctors behave like the factory workers? If doctors do not want to work without security, they are not fit for the profession.”

How can doctors work and save a serious patient in the operation theatre or the intensive care unit with a threatening crowd of hostile anti-social elements breathing down their neck? Can the judges work peacefully in a hostile environment with commotion in court premises?

The Justice Sikri in his decree of May 28, 2012, has accepted that it is impossible to conduct trials and deliver justice in such an environment and as the police could not control the mob of unruly lawyers. He summoned the CRPF and kept the army in waiting to protect the judges.

Common sense dictates that it is more prudent and mandatory to provide a safe working environment to the doctors who are working round the clock trying to save lives. This is in fact true for anyone handling emergency situations - fire and emergency, ambulance operators, paramedics, military, border security forces, and the list can go longer.

Asking them to quit the profession is a sign of double standards and smacking of insensitive autocracy. Instead, an awareness campaign needs to be initiated among the public regarding the importance of the health sector, and the sanctity associated with it.

This campaign will be succ-essful only if everyone joins ha­nds: the doctors, nurses, paramedics, media, civil societies, and of course, the government. There is also a need to publicise the Doctors Protection Act 2010, which carries a non-bailable warrant and six months of imprisonment for anyone assaulting a doctor on duty.

Demoralising attacks
This is apart from the penalty of Rs 50,000 and double the damage to property caused by the incidence. It is indeed sad but true that none of the assaulters have been convicted in the 53 cases registered over the past two years in the country.

The recent incidents are so demoralising that the current and future generation may think twice before taking up the medical course. The young MBBS graduates may opt for branches that do not necessitate regular interactions with patients and dealing with emergencies.

In addition, the brain drain, which had only recently started to slow down, may increase, with these brilliant and young minds searching for safer working conditions.

Before things spin out of control, this is an earnest request to all those concerned to understand that it is absolutely fundamental to give respect and protection to doctors in any civilised society. If there are any genuine grievances against the doctors or the hospitals, the public need to go through proper channels like the courts, consumer forums, and the medical council.

Taking law into their own hands and letting out the frustration on a soft target is not acceptable. If this continues, the doctors will either become very defensive in their approach or refuse to treat a serious patient with a sword hanging on their head. The implementation of the Doctors Protection Act 2010 in letter and in spirit at the earliest is the need of the hour.

(The writer is a senior orthopae­dic surgeon based in Bengaluru)