Unplucked Weeds: Perceptions about Medicine and Doctors in Pakistani Society
The struggle within the maze starts the very moment when you think of being a part of the medical world! Nothing seems more eventful than this ride alone. It teaches more than what a dozen teachers would deliver ever.
It has shades of every professional aspect in it. You would find yourself thinking like Sherlock Holmes when deciphering a patient’s report. You would rather feel like a teacher when educating your patient.
To be on time in critical situations when seconds decide life and death, makes you a disciplined army officer. You’re actually a plumber when performing a surgery for cardiac anomaly. You’re also a police officer when investigating suicidal and homicidal deaths. A ride likes this when you get mesmerized by all colors in the prism of profession, gives you blows, steep hills and hurdles.
Weird experiences in the very first days of medical school are just a gear up. These might just be confined to Eastern setups like Pakistan. It started with “no, no aunty, I’m not a doctor.” These were the lines repeated by my friend as he was ruthlessly dragged by the arm. To my entertainment, a bulky woman of stiff expressions dragged my friend into the street while he tried hard to resist.
The knowledge that popped my curiosity bubble was that the woman wanted my friend to attend her daughter who was suffering from an intractable stomach pain. She was hopeful that the white coat will relieve it irrespective of the information whether the coat was worn by a first semester student or a house officer! Excessively high hopes from you of the non-medical people around you is also a problem among the relatives who, again irrespective of the step at which you stand, frequently ask you about the swelling around their eyes, tiredness, pain in legs or even about the best vitamin supplement they can have.
This happens on no other occasions than family gatherings when you start hating the spotlight upon yourself; and once a medication suggested by you turn out to be non-relieving to them or once an injection given by you leaves a bluish patch on their skin, you’re labeled “not a good doctor”. So welcome to medicine! Once a black sheep here is a black sheep forever!
Then in the field, during the early days, there are those cold “Senior-Junior relationship Grudges” at every institute. The transition from bookish knowledge to clinical skills requires enlightenment from experienced seniors already studded at wards. It’s really heartbreaking when they treat you like a little a kid as to learn anything in an ample manner; and wait! There have been some stories of sexual harassment reported by our mates too.
Gradually after stabilizing the roots in the field, the most important asset seems to be lost these days. It is the bond of trust in a doctor-patient relationship that has been deteriorated since the pharmaceuticals intervened. The various companies producing the isoform of a certain drug are left unsupervised. HOLA! There are quacks among them too.
The patients do not often buy the original drugs and are grieved by no alleviation of symptoms. Not even the backstage of their thoughts take them to the drug-maker’s mischief. All they think is how deceitful and ineffectual the doctor is. Consequently, break up between them and the doctors, result.
Here goes the story. “I am having pain here, around my gum, “told a woman. A man then handed over her a packet of “NSAID” and remarked with overwhelming confidence, “Ma’am, this will relieve your pain!” This is not a conversation between the woman and a doctor but is a conversation between the woman and a shopkeeper of a medical store! Sadly, this is what’s happening in the medical stores around us.
So almost everyone around us practicing medicine whether he’s a shopkeeper, an instructor at the gym or a housewife. Ironically, people don’t need to go to the clinics, all they have to do is to contact their nearest medical store keeper if they catch any illness. I wonder where the pharmacists went on this Earth!
But why don’t people go to doctors? What stops them? Mostly, there are two kinds of people that are reluctant to go to the doctor. First are those who do not have money. Fine, there are government hospitals to look after them. Even then, why don’t they go? This issue is not global but specific to underdeveloped and developing countries like Pakistan and other parts of Asia.
They don’t visit hospitals because even though, initial costs are affordable, follow up checkups and investigations are far beyond what they can pay for. Diseases never check if one is economically sound or not. If they did, cancer would have been a rich man’s disease and flu, a poor man’s. Secondly, there’s always a lack of hospitability for the poor.
Then there is second group of people who don’t visit the doctor. These are struck by waves of ignorance and lack of awareness. They believe that home remedies are enough to continue ‘breathing without pains.’ These are unaware and innocent people as they are happy to see an ugly lump disappear from their skin by their own experiments irrespective of the fact that the experiments might have dislodged a malignancy by dissolving!
These tangled and overlooked issues have always been a part of the medical biosphere. Patience, awareness programmes, and accountability of every one of us at each level could lead to eradication of anything that endangers the health of the community. Let the belief of Hippocrates prevail: “Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”
About the Author: Bushra Maqsood, is currently enrolled as a student of MBBS in Dow University Of Health Sciences, Karachi, Paksitan. She harbours a keen interest in Neurosciences, neurosurgery and General Medicine and surgery and hopes to work towards issues pertaining to medical community and problems faced by the underprivileged patients. Bushra can be reached at [email protected]
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