Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee
President, Heart Care Foundation of India
July 1 is Doctor’s Day. Call your doctor or your doctor friends and wish them a Happy Doctor’s Day. Medicine is a noble profession. Among all professions, medicine is the only profession which can be regarded as next to God.
“Doctors treat, but God heals” is a well-known saying. Doctors thus serve as the messengers of God. A doctor cannot refuse treatment. It is a doctor’s duty to attend to a patient in emergency regardless of caste, creed, race or the financial status of the person.
This principle has been very well-personified in our mythology too. Ramayana cites the story of Vaidya Sushen, who treated Lakshmana with the famed Sanjivani booti. He was called to see the unconscious Lakshmana during the war between Lord Rama and Ravana. Despite the fact that he was a royal physician in the kingdom of Ravana, Sushen made the decision of treating Lakshmana. This illustrates the ethical duties of a physician. Likewise, if a person sentenced to death by hanging falls ill, it is the duty of a physician to treat him until the day of his hanging.
The concept of Family Physician or the General Practitioner of the olden times is fast vanishing in this age of super specialization. Every day new specialties are coming up. What was once the domain of a family physician has been now divided among different specialties. This has created a gap in communication between patient and doctor often leading to litigations. To avoid this, look for a Family Physician, who will be your guide in all health matters and also coordinate your care when specialists are involved.
Doctors too should respect the prefix ‘Dr.’ before their name
Very few professions have the privilege of prefixing an honor before their name and medical profession is one of them. We, as doctors, are allowed to prefix ‘Dr.’ before our names and we must respect this honor.
Diwan, Rai Bahadur, Rotaries, Lion, Justice etc. are other sets of prefixes given by the society to distinguished people. Even the Prime Minister of India, President of India, Member of Parliaments, MLAs, Councillors have no such privilege. Likewise, Padma Awardees too have no such privilege. They cannot write Padma Shri Dr. XYZ but can only write Padma Shri Awardee Dr. XYZ.
There is no law in India, which allows doctors to write prefix ‘Dr.’ before their names. It is a precedence which has been accepted and honored by the society. The prefixes Dr., Diwan, Rai Bahadur etc. distinguish the privileged persons from the rest of the population. These prefixes indicate that the main duty of these people is towards the welfare of the society. For example, people are aware as to whom to contact when in trouble. It can be any one with a ‘prefix’.
It is the Vedantic principle of “welfare of the society” which makes doctors special and different in the society. The day this aspect of welfare is lost, society may not accord us the same respect as they have been doing so till now.
The principles involved in acting towards the welfare of the society includes giving 10% of our time to charity; not charging any fee from those who cannot afford; charging less from the middle class and charging normal from people who can afford and where reimbursements are available. Probably, this is the reason that in every hospital even today we have multiple systems of patients and policies starting from Free Wards, General Wards, Concessional Semi Paying Wards and Fully Paid Wards. Many hospitals have even come out with another category of Deluxe where one can charge more from people where money is not a problem. It is the rich who has to pay for the poor in the welfare system.
Let us ( we the doctors) resolve on Doctor’s Day, July 1, 2011 to commit some portion of our time for the welfare of the society.