Why are doctors hit by the relatives of dead patients?


I would like to narrate an incident that happened to my father a few years ago.

My father is a family physician in Bangalore practicing since the last 34 years. A respectable citizen who has been doing yeoman service to the community.

The particular incident- it was 9:30pm and my father was just about to close his clinic. A 70 yr old man (patient) and his son came in an auto. The patient was a known asthmatic and was having a severe asthmatic episode at that point. My father opened his clinic and got him to a bed so he could give him emergency care before shifting to a hospital. His episode was quite severe and even before my father could start any treatment the patient died. The total time since his arrival to the clinic was 3-5mins.

After my father declared the death the son requested for the death certificate which my father agreed to issue. In the meantime the son called his family and within 15-20mins there was a mob of about 100people outside the small clinic.

If you know how a mob is…the people at the back don’t know what’s going on at the front. Someone near the front of the mob had an altercation with a shop keeper next to my father’s clinic and broke a bottle from that store. The people at the back having no idea what the cause of the death was stormed into the clinic, destroyed everything inside including free vaccines in the refrigerator, expensive instruments, desk and furniture. They roughed up my father and took his mobile, his watch and about Rs. 10,000 cash from the cabinet.

Fortunately my father was not badly hurt and he managed to make his way out of the clinic and took an auto to the nearest police station. The police arrived and cleared the clinic and arrested the few hooligans who were still there destroying things and searching for things to steal.

This incident clearly shows a few things:
1. A doctor does not have to be wrong always when mob violence occurs.
2. The community whom he has served for 34 years did not come to help my father in the time of need. Not one person thought of calling the police. (my father’s clinic is in a busy street)
3. My father’s reputation of so many years was destroyed in a few minutes. Who would think well of a doctor whose clinic was in such a mess?
4. My father could have easily refused to take in the patient but he chose to help the patient in need. This is how he was paid back.
5. There is no protection for doctors in clinics or even big hospitals.

My father was still lucky. He wasn’t badly hurt and all loss was monetary. But nowadays every few days there is some incident when mobs resort to violence against doctors.

This inability of the society to acknowledge altruism of the doctors will be the reason to discourage the next generation of brilliant students from taking up this unforgiving profession. Doctors are no more demigods or authorities in their field. Their medical decisions will be altered by arm twisting untrusting patients, fear of malpractice suits, defensive medicine, target hounding corporate hospitals, a populist government and an inefficient law system.

People blame doctors without thinking why anything happens.
One blames poor education of patient’s relatives and goon culture for this. This incident may find place in a corner of some newspaper for a day.

But what happens after that?

What is the law of the land doing to prevent these Kangaroo courts from passing judgment on doctors?

Who will take care of the damage to life, property and reputation that a doctor has to suffer?

When will the media , politicians and the community wake up?

Who will highlight this ugly barbaric side of healthcare in India?

Who will rescue the doctor? Anyone listening?



Raghuraj S.Hegde