Media, Medics and Society
A few days back, while watching TV, changing channels a strange news caught my eyes, at a news channel a news was scrolling as breaking news that a 5 years old boy died at a hospital’s emergency after a medical practitioner allegedly administered wrong injection to him. The family of the deceased has launched protest against the doctor, in front of the hospital. This news hit me with grief, I felt very sorry for the boy.
The T.V anchor got one of his reporters with him who interviewed the father of the deceased who accused on duty doctor of malpractice and the bulletin ended with the news still scrolling at the bottom.
Suddenly I realized may be anchor forgot something, “the point of view of the doctor”. The deceased father in the interview mentioned that his son only had fever and it was not his illness but the wrong treatment from the doctor that killed his son that left me thinking that if his son was so well why did he bring him to the hospital in the first place? If his son’s illness was so ordinary why wasn’t he treated at the outpatient clinic? Or what was he doing at the Emergency Room (E.R)?
One should know that insurance malpractice expense is the major reason for US health care system being the most expensive in the world. With all modern technology and best training, doctors in US also make mistake, which are then covered by the insurance.
Being a medical student, second thing that struck me was, can anyone accuse the doctor of malpractice that easily? I mean only a doctor can say if the treatment provided was appropriate or whether negligence has been committed or not, how can media self-assume the doctor of malpractice on someone’s accusation? We have authority, a medical council and court of law to look into these matters, which should have been used by the family of the deceased if they sensed any malpractice, but in a country with literacy rate less than 49% it might be too much to ask from someone. But the media could have acted more maturely in reporting these events. A little research would have been better. Is reporting of malpractice just on someone’s accusation is ethical? Defaming a doctor may gain media TRP (target rating points) but it could end career of a doctor on the other end.
The incident I quoted is not the only one; we see news of this sort on regular basis put forwarded by our media. There can be three possible conclusions of this: (1) doctors of our country are very negligent and they have no idea how to do their work; (2) they have no regard of their patients’ life as they know that authorities are so corrupt or ignorant that no action would be taken against them in case of mistakes; (3) media likes to sensationalize any news to get higher rating and audience and ultimately higher advertising revenue.
Well, in my perspective like any other profession of the world there are black sheep in this profession as well. Without any question those crooks should be punished but through proper medium. One hour protest by family of deceased or ten minutes coverage by media don’t do any justice to the poor lost soul as the cases still go unnoticed by authorities, but this ends with defaming a noble profession. Second opinion from a doctor and hospital which is not related with the first one must be taken in case of suspicious and expensive diagnoses.
This not only affects doctors as most of us thinks but have effects on the society as a whole. Here is how media has distorted the image of the health care system and doctors to the extent that people now are afraid of going to the doctors. Once patients had so much faith in their doctors that they used to discuss even their family and social problems with them without any hesitation, with the hope of finding solution from their doctors and doctor would use to reply in the same fashion. But now people try to conceal even their major medical symptoms and try to stay away from hospitals and delay their encounter with doctors as long as possible, this fear causes harm to them in the worst possible way.
Here I want to give example of my cousin who was diagnosed with cervical polyp and was told of surgical excision but she was so afraid of doctors and surgery that she went for an option of alternate medicine instead. She was assured that her condition will resolve without any surgery. She took several medications but as any medical doctor would expect the polyp did not cure, after months of experimentation. Doctor of alternative medicine referred her back to MBBS doctor but she was still not willing to go for the surgery. When I asked why? She was afraid that doctors will kill her on the operation table as often projected in the media.
Being a medical student I suggested for surgery if approved by senior doctors. At least I somehow managed to persuade her for it. She went through surgery and is doing well on follow-up. But how many people are lucky enough to have someone who helps them in taking right decisions when it comes to health care. In this situation media is complicating things even more. Media has the power of focusing an empty seat in a full house jam packed stadium and making millions of viewers believe that stadium is actually empty. This attribute of media is influencing our health care system too.
Media never talks about how hard a doctor works, what it’s like being on call, what it’s like spending 36 hours continuously in a hospital. Continuous working and whenever there is any break to sleep on bed full of bed bugs. What it’s like when on weekends or holidays, other people are enjoying with their families, but doctors are still running the hospitals, looking after their patients. Being under paid for most of their lives all they ask for in return is little respect from their patients and society. Which in current situation is so much to ask for?
Most of the people come into this field because they are inspired by this noble profession. Instead of respect and regard for white coats, media is creating negative perspective of doctors: portraying doctors as murderers more than life savers. This profession has started losing its charisma. Well, doctors are smart enough to prosper in any other field they want to.
Best and brightest go to medical schools and education and training is long and painful. After so many years of hard training, you hardly earn income equal to many Masters and MBAs in Pakistan. While in America and in many developed countries, doctors have the highest paid profession.
If doctors start shifting to other professions no one will be able to replace them and the result will have disastrous effect on the whole society. In a country like Pakistan with current situation of brain drain, gender wise ratio imbalance in medical colleges and quality of doctors produced by newly formed private institutes already influencing our medical system, negative media projection is contributing in its distortion even more.
On one hand media is promoting doctors who treat diseases by 1 minute history on phone through television program (to make advertising money), without any proper medical history examination or investigation. Is that a good medical practice media expects from other doctors? I seriously doubt it. But media still promotes them as these doctors earn them TRP.
Anyways, the main responsibility of maintaining the honor of this noble profession rests on our shoulders, the representatives of these professions: doctors, nurses, residents and even medical students. Inspiring one another and identifying quacks that are responsible for putting bad name to this profession is our responsibility. We should identify our mistakes ourselves before someone else points them out as a minute mistake from a doctor could affect a life and a family.
The responsible medical authority, including media must investigate that if a mistake is made by a doctor, was it an honest mistake, gross negligence or just to make more money. Most important: is there a pattern of such mistakes by a particular doctor or a hospital. If this is the case, then severe action must be taken against that doctor and the hospital.
Society expects a lot from us. Let’s hope that we can raise our standards further to fulfill those .
About the Author: Ahreema Zahid is a fourth year medical student from Sindh Medical College, Pakistan. She has worked as a trainee at various hospitals in Karachi, Pakistan. She can be reached at: [email protected]
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