Should doctors be held up to a different set of expectations than other professionals? Can we expect or demand that a doctor treat us when he or she chooses not to? Why are doctors expected not to have the same human weaknesses that the rest of us possess?

In our culture, doctors are not only exalted to the level of life saving Gods, but are also denigrated as being money grubbers who sell their souls for money. In other words they are held up to different standards than are other people in society; even other professionals.

Doctors are somehow supposed to be better and more selfless than others in society. Watch this video below (it’s a classic). Now while this video is likely to have the regular person rolling in the isles for the unspeakable scripting, rank bad acting and Manoj Kumar’s unique and the inimitable hamming, it does also speak of the attitude that many of us have to doctors.

Should doctors be held up to a higher standard?

Typically when a doctor refuses to treat someone because he is taking a day off or is going off for a holiday there is protest. Recriminations are heaped upon his or her head and he or she is vilified as being mercenary, avaricious and unethical. And if a doctor refuses to perform a procedure for lack of funds, well that is declared as just being beyond the pale! Why is this?

Just because a doctor has received professional training of a certain type should he or she be expected to have a different personal moral or ethical compass? After all if a lawyer refuses to take a case because of a vacation or if a Chartered Accountant refuses to work for someone because the remuneration is inadequate these professionals certainly do not receive the same kind of recrimination that a doctor would.

A doctor may have the training that equips them with a special set of skills and abilities, but at the end of the day, a doctor has the same human frailties and limitations that you and I have. So while you and I may wish for a doctor to have a more stringent ethical code and a keener sense of duty to others and society at large; we are not entitled to expect it. Any doctor has their own set of realities and compulsions and you and I do not have the right to impose our own set of realities on a doctor, no matter how urgent or imperative those realities of ours may seem to us.

While a medical condition may seem terribly urgent to you or I, it doesn’t have to be so to a doctor. A doctor will have their own personal and professional exigencies as an individual and as a family person – for a doctor the need to spend time with family, the aspiration for a bigger and better home, the wherewithal to arm their child with a better education may be of greater immediate concern than yours or my personal health. Simply having some leisure time may be of immediate importance to a doctor.

And why not? Why should doctors be expected to be any less human; indeed any less selfish than the rest of us? We may desire it; we may hope for it but we cannot expect it and we certainly cannot demand it.

And what of a doctor who refuses to treat a patient for reasons of self preservation?

The Doctor Luke Fildes crop 300x229 Should Doctors Have the Right to Refuse to Treat Patients?A doctor may refuse to treat a patient with a particular virulent or infectious disease – such doctors are also condemned as being selfish and as being unfaithful to their oath and duty. Yet doctors have the same self preservative instincts as the rest of us – if you and I cannot be expected to knowingly endanger ourselves, why should this be expected of doctors?

Take the instance of when AIDS and HIV – when it was still not properly understood what the disease is and how it passes from one to another person, doctors used to refuse to treat it. But then such ignorance and prejudice against HIV and AIDS patients was the norm – people routinely refused to touch or associate with sufferers of the disease.  People with AIDS were routinely ostracised in the community at large, so a doctor’s behaviour at the time was nothing but a reflection of this.

A doctor is in fact a reflection of the society that they have emanated from. They will be as good or as bad as that same society. We may want them to be better but in all fairness I do not think that we can expect it. Otherwise aren’t we all like Manoj Kumar in Clerk – who speaks of a doctor with hatred – simply because he asked for fees?

By – Reena Daruwalla

See Also

Litter, Litter Everywhere– Why Do We Indians Do This to Our Public Spaces?

Indian Culture – What Culture is That?

Image Courtesy – Wikipedia (Physician)

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