The doctor cannot see you today - he's tired

Are doctors expected to dump their civil rights in the trash the moment they take the Hippocratic Oath? No.

Faraz Talat July 04, 2012
Ever wondered if your doctor had a birthday party to attend? A valeema to go to? A bunch of kids at home wailing out in indignation because daddy hadn’t come home in time to take them to their favourite park? He would have, had he not received a call about a patient with a ruptured aneurysm.

As a doctor, I have never met a surgeon who, at some point during the surgical procedure, did not envy the person sleeping soundly on the operating table in front of him. Barely more awake than the patient he operates upon, his tired mind races through the personal troubles in his life.

Both my parents are doctors, which has made for an interesting childhood. If I had a penny for every school event my father missed, and every plan my mother had to cancel because of a patient going into labour, I’d have far more money than what the doctors are making today.

As a frustrated 9-year-old, I would sometimes stand at the door of my parents’ private nursing home in the evening, yelling at incoming patients that the hospital is closed. I knew mum and dad wouldn’t leave for that rare evening plan we had made weeks ago, until all the patients had been dealt with. Mom would call an off-duty nurse to watch over me and keep me entertained, while she continued to treat the sick way beyond her working hours.

And for what, I wonder? Irrespective of the freedoms we forfeit in honour of the oath we have taken, we’re still viewed as uncaring, avaricious vultures. We’ve been called murderers because of our inability to reverse death, or prevent it from happening entirely. Indeed, every patient who ever expired in the arms of a doctor, did so because of the doctor’s incompetence and never because of a natural process that was beyond his capacity to remediate.

In the hospital where I’ve been trained as a medical student, a doctor often calls security before informing a person about the death of his friend or relative. The second stage of grief, right after denial, is anger. That is never good for the doctor.

As the truth is never sensational enough, the media would have you believe that there are corpses piling up outside the hospitals as the doctors are refusing to treat any of the patients. That is not how it is. The emergency departments are still active, ready to handle all life-threatening cases with the same diligence as they always do. It is the outpatient departments that are being affected, if at all, by the protests.

When you perform a service, you expect to get paid for it; not doctors though. The idea is that the moment I raised my right hand to take the Hippocratic Oath, I simultaneously dumped my civil rights into a trash can. While lawyers, engineers, factory workers and all others are allowed to fight for higher salaries to compensate for inflation, and often succeed in their goals, doctors simply do not have this right. We're expected to work silently and ungrudgingly regardless of how little we are paid.

Doctors are demanding nothing that they have not already earned by running frantically from one ward to another, watching over your loved ones; spending Eid holidays standing by in the Emergency Rooms (ER); examining endless streams of patients through drooping eyelids.

It is neither our professionalism nor our patriotism that is waning; it is our energies that have been snuffed out. As dedicated as we are to helping our patients, we are simply too exhausted to do that as efficiently as we would like to.

If nobody else is willing to come out on the streets to fight for a doctor's rights, then regrettably, the doctor would have to leave the hospital and do it himself.

Read more by Faraz here or follow him on Twitter @FarazTalat
Faraz Talat

The writer is a doctor based in Rawalpindi and writes about current affairs and societal issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Ali S | 11 years ago | Reply @abc: For your plan to work there the government healthcare system - where our medical graduates should ideally be serving - would need to be completely overhauled as well. How can someone who makes 24000 a month pay off those kind of loans? Sincerely, a Medical Student
Sadia Hussain | 11 years ago | Reply Where exactly are doctors supposed to perform surgeries for 30 hrs non-stop? I would definitely not want to go to a hospital like that or let anyone else go there....being on call for long hours doesn't mean you are constantly on your feet...There are tons of professions out there where people are required to be on call for long hours....Unless you are performing your services volutarily, you are really going at it the wrong way by trying to elevate your profession over others, most people are just as passionate about their profession as you are about medicine....I unterstand the struggles and your frustrations and yes, people shouldn't expect you to be gods and take out their anger on you when something happens to their loved ones but here is the fact, you are working with humans... if something goes wrong...people would blame you even if it's not your fault...if I am working with a machine, I may end up breaking it and it may not be entirely my fault or incompetence but I am going to get blamed for it... Anyhow, things are bad for every profession in Pakistan...I am not against doctors going on strikes so their demands could be met but you can't expect people to treat you guys as any other professional out there and then go on and on about how you guys are going over and above to serve humanity compared to the rest of us...
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