Cure the disease and kill the patient

The recent actions of protesting doctors are examples of disregard for the value of human life.

Vaqas August 01, 2011
Ah, Pims, a place where people are guaranteed quality health service. Or at least used to.

Nowadays, anyone naive enough to want to go to Pims for any form of treatment is guaranteed only one thing -- denial of service.

Medicine is a professional category that earns the respect of all and sundry the world over. Doctors, nurses, paramedics and even technicians are regular features in the prayers of patients whose lives they save. Cicero aptly described doctors when he wrote, “In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.”

Sadly, the recent actions of protesting doctors, and specifically certain Young Doctors Association  representatives at Pims, is more reminiscent of the old French proverb, “The doctor is often more to be feared than the disease.”

Historically, doctors take some form of oath, usually based on the Hippocratic Oath, in which they swear to practice medicine under certain ethical conditions. The Physicians Oath, which is part of the Geneva Declaration of the World Medical Association, includes, “I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity; the health of my patient will be my first consideration,” and, “I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.”

Congratulations Pims YDA!

All of you have qualified for awards for the most apathetic doctors in the country.


Well blackmailing the government by using the sick and poor as bargaining chips already showed your lack of class. But that’s forgivable, since you were only dropping to the level of the opposing party. More important though, was the fact that in a formal application sent to the Capital Administration and Development Division and hospital administration, doctors gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the authorities to accept their demands (legitimate or not), “or the doctors [will] hold them responsible for any casualties that take place during the time services in critical units remain on hold.”

So hypothetically, if the deadline passed and anyone died at the hospital because the doctors are involved in a civil disobedience movement in which they are refusing to treat anyone for any reason, it will be the government’s fault?

While the rationalist may try to explain the specious reasoning this argument is based on, more reactionary people would probably be justified in thinking the doctors are full of something doctors like sending for diagnostic tests.

The Pims doctors only withdrew their threat after an ‘assurance’ from the prime minister. No apology for the problems they created for people. No remorse for their ‘drop-dead-for-all-I-care’ attitude. It’s all about the Benjamins (Jinnahs in this case) for these life-saving life-threatening doctors.

The doctors are strong-arming the government for more money and job security, based on the argument that they work a tough job. Maybe they should realise that doctors or not, there are literally millions of government employees who also work tough jobs and are paid a pittance in return. Teachers and lower staff from different departments protesting over wages is nothing new. Their demands are shot down (thankfully in metaphor only) based on the argument that the government can’t afford the added financial burden.

Unfortunately, when the government caved in to the doctors, it opened a Pandora’s Box, as those millions of employees now know that the government will treat threats of implicit violence as a negotiating tactic and will willingly negotiate while ignoring those threats. Now what moral right does the state have to deny anyone protesting in the streets an increment? What will happen if all the teachers in government schools start protesting? What will happen if the entire PIA or railways staff started protesting?

In 1981, air traffic controllers in the US went on strike demanding significant pay increases and fewer working hours. Though members of his staff encouraged President Ronald Reagan to cave in, he didn’t want to set a bad precedent and fired everyone who refused to cross the picket line.

Doctors are not irreplaceable, especially doctors who are willing to let patients die if it means some extra cash in their pockets. Medicine is a noble profession requiring dedication to work, not surreal examples of disregard for the value of human life.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Vaqas Asghar | 12 years ago | Reply Both longer comments have the same main point so ill give the same reply. No one asked you to become a doctor. If you have problems with the wages, maybe you should have chosen a different career. You do seem quite jealous of your classfellows and their foreign trips. Well i have news for you, that's the biggest perk of private sector work! As for visiting govt hospitals, they are the only ones ive ever visited in a non-emergency situation. I was born in one (Polyclinic), had all my shots in one, got minor and major treatment in them, took my dad to one when he had a heart attack, took my mom to one when she was sick, and watched all my deceased grandparents die in them. Each of the last three required extended stays, so yes, i know what its like in a government hospital. I also know what its like to make next to nothing while working in an office with no air conditioning in the summer (not the Tribune obviously, although). Sun Tzu said, "Know your enemy and know yourself." If you had bothered to do even the slightest bit of research, you'd know that journalists do have a duty to the truth, and like greedy doctors, the ones who sell out on that duty are the ones who give the profession a bad name. By the way, a number of my friends are or are en route to becoming doctors, and its based on what one young doctor said to me in response to Sajid Abbasi's (PIMS YDA head) threat that if people die because of the strike, it is the government's fault, (a threat he repeated a few days after this was published in print) that I became truly motivated to write this. Like most professions, doctors don't make much money till late in life. Neither do print journalists. Some of my friends working for banks and telecom firms make 4-5 times as much as me. The only difference is that I'm not jealous of them. I chose my career, and right or wrong, the pay scale is something i accepted as part of it. That's the way the cookie crumbles. you wanna get rich quick, become a banker or a finance type. You wanna do something good for the world? then work for positive social change instead of encouraging mob behavior. Studying to become a doctor doesn't entitle you to a better life. Working and doing a good job, (both of which the YDA is refusing to do), on the other hand, does. The only valid point you make is about doctors getting beaten up by grieving family members of those who dont make it, which is unfortunate and avoidable, but ultimately also something that happens not just in Pakistan, but most of the world. All professions have their unusual hazards. Don't run the "woe-is-me" line, because by that logic everybody in the world is being oppressed by everyone else and thus deserves a raise, or they'll stop coming to work.
Choas A.D | 12 years ago | Reply Seems like the author had a nice, easy time writing this article in his cosy, serene Express Tribune Islamabad Sub-Editor's office, legs up on the desk, coffee simmering nearby, Air conditioner on full blast, while casually typing away ... Oh, what's that you say? it's not as heavenly as I picture it? well, sorry, but this is why One shouldn't assume the nature of another's job with such perfectible criticism when one simply isn't even a micro-shelling part of that system.. My friend, step outside your shell, visit your nearest government hospital, spend 36 hours overnight there, see the conditions in which we doctors have been working for since the past 40-50 years, see how dogs and cats scamper through the wards, the flies flirt with the idling, powerless ceiling fans, the proximity with which you can stand next to a patient with highly communicable Dengue or Tuberculosis patient coughing up blood without flinching away from his touch, trying your best at cleaning that same blood of his sheets with tissue/napkins because there are no spare sheets and you can't expect the patient to lie there in his blood-tainted bed all night long, giving 100 rs. (out of your OWN pocket) to a poor, debilitated patient just so he can have breakfast, even if he can't afford his own medication for the day, but just because he asked you so nicely. Try explaining a unfortunate and unavoidable death of a severely malformed child to a grieving Family and then getting attacked/beaten by 3 of their attendants outside the MRI room for 5 minutes, until the nearest security guard clocks it in time to your rescue. Now, do all of this (and MORE!) for 8 months without pay. I'm not saying low pay, or paltry paisaas pay, I mean, absolutely-not-a-JINNAH pay. The gratitude of your patients will be all that keeps you going, day and night after day. I'm sure you shall rise to the occasion, good sir, where thousands of other Hypocrites who have taken the Hippocratic oath have failed (surely!). The government knows the hospitals are under-resourced, of course they are, oh but they have resource in spades. Cheap, Free-rental Doctors who'll work day and night because they took an oath. Thank God News & media organisations have no oaths such as these, warna kaam baraa mushkil ho jataa, baboo! discuss this with your fellow Isloo sub-editors the next time you're sipping on some devine shade of mocha flavored coffee at your prim and primed, LCD equipped office canteen. Or at Hotspot/Civil Junction. Above listed are some of my experiences, and they are meager as I have just only entered my profession. after 5 years and plus counting, my friends from high school have gone on to Standard Chartered, Dubai insurance companies, Corporate giants from London to North America, and even the hallowed halls of Express Tribune itself. They vacation in the Bahamas, Malaysia, and the eponymous Dubai Sandy Sin City, and they can manage all this because they are paid for their services. I still ask my father for CNG money every 3rd morning before I leave for the hospital. and I'm one of the lucky few who commandeers a vehicle. I shall waste no more keyboard-breath than this. We work too, do we not? "Pay the worker his wages, before his sweat dries."
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