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Media and Medics: Friends or Foes?

Submitted by on August 7, 2013 – 10:45 PM

17040612-black-and-white-pawn-on-chessboard-background-3d-renderToo tired to sit upright, I lay sprawled on the couch surfing in an ocean of TV channels.




Angelina Jolie undergoes double Mastectomy.




Now you can measure your skin tone.




Gangnam style hits 1 billion Youtube views.


With nothing flashy enough to keep me captivated, I kept flipping channels until I came to a halt:


“DOCTORS TURNED DEMONS!” a shrill voice resonated against the windowpanes of my TV lounge. Whether it was just the abrupt rise in decibels or the elicited words which eventually grabbed my attention; I do not know. All I know is that I was well tuned into the Breaking News.


“The so-called Angels are protesting for better remuneration packages and incentives while the patients continue to lie unattended in the wards. Now the question arises whether Doctors are supposed to resurrect the dead or tie death knots around their throats?” the News reporter’s voice raised an octave as she said the last sentence, making me flinch. Thanks to the sponsors, the dreary news flash was followed by a never-ending trail of advertisements.


Being an aspiring doctor, I was indeed unnerved by the scathing words but even if I look into the matter impartially, the protestants/doctors also deserved a right to express their point of view. Sadly, their version of the story was not given much importance. A fabricated truth is no better than a lie; a half-truth is even more deceptive. If I think of a person who, in all his naivety, believes in everything he watches on TV, or someone too credulous, or someone simply too busy to use conscience, News at 9 must be adding a new name to that person’s hate-list each day.


All hail the media! It has the power to turn heroes into villains, protagonists into antagonists and ‘angels’ into ‘demons’ within the wink of an eye. Oblivious to the hatred it may be nurturing, the media can indoctrinate people and steer their perceptions in any direction it wants.


Each day during my ward rotations, I hear excruciating stories. I see tears shed and blood spilled. I witness patients writhing and attendants whining. While this description may be formidable for many people, there are a few who are trained for years to deal with the same. For them and even for a beginner like me, being labeled as ‘demon’ is quite distressing.


One good example of hatred begetting hatred is that of an individual who enters medical school laden with patriotism and a never-ending spirit to serve one’s country. Thanks to the mayhem created by the media, constant assaults and lack of opportunities, ends up offering his services abroad. Media, although not the only culprit, certainly adds fuel to the fire by making the environment less conducive to work.


According to the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, annually 1000 to 1500 physicians leave the country which means that the country has lost 25% of its doctors to date. If this brain drain continues at such an alarming rate, I have a premonition that people will have to travel abroad even to get their minor ailments treated.


While brain drain might be more prevalent in our part of the world, Bashing of doctors by the media is a global phenomenon. Throughout the world, newspapers’ headlines ubiquitously state ‘DIED DUE TO NEGLIGENCE OF DOCTOR’. No matter how serious was the condition of the patient when brought to the doctor, if that patient dies in the ward or Operation Theater, the doctor is held responsible. However, except for an infinitesimal fraction of iatrogenic cases, the doctor certainly needs not to be blamed.


Ironically, a couple of years down the lane while I was still in High school, the very same electronic media, through a different dimension, helped me decide my career path. Dumbfounded, I gawked at the TV screen as Dr. Derek Shepherd operated on, what I now know are called, sulci and gyri. Awestruck, I saw him maneuvering through the healthy tissues, carefully removing the tumor and restoring the anatomy to its immaculate state – I could only but marvel at the dexterity of the surgeon’s hands. Grey’s anatomy along with all the other TV shows which portrayed a doctor as a ‘perfect ensemble of scrubs and an indomitable urge to help the sick’ inspired me into becoming what I am and what I will be in the near future.


Moreover, the exponential increase in the number of health related TV channels is yet another feather in media’s hat. Not only has it led to a better understanding of health issues in the general public but is also helping them take a step forward towards a healthier lifestyle. With the celebrities endorsing vaccination campaigns and doctors running awareness programs, Media indeed has certain redeeming qualities.


It is worthy to mention that neither all news channels are bad nor all doctors are good. There is a fraction of TV programs which refrain from pseudo-truths. Similarly, there maybe a few doctors who have not set their priorities right. Therefore, no profession in the world is infallible or immune to criticism. Constructive criticism intending to bring reforms is rather invaluable, provided it is within the confines of honesty and respect.


With the ability to change peoples’ perspectives altogether, the media carries a huge responsibility on its shoulders. The media, whether electronic or print, is bound to bring facts into attention without any exaggeration or bias. Spicing up stories for the sake of ratings and perpetually mortifying the professions which are usually venerated by the society will only fill peoples’ minds with filth of grudges and enmities. In a universe where everything is in a state of entropy, the media needs to make attempts at conserving norms and inspiring children into becoming doctors, engineers, pacifists and philanthropists.


In his internationally acclaimed novel ‘Angels and Demons’, Dan Brown writes, “Media is the right arm of anarchy”. If that is true, are we ready to welcome a world where optimist is called delusional, where cynicism prevails and where youngsters prefer guns over stethoscopes?


About the Author: Parsa Azam Larik is a student of 4th year MBBS, at Dow Medical College, Pakistan. She wishes to seek Internal Medicine and Oncology as her fields of specialization in the future. Parsa can be reached at [email protected]

About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2013

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