#Showbiz Opinion

A doctor’s reply to the accusations made on Satyamev Jayate — the other side of the story


The doctor is considered akin to God by a suffering man. A medical touch is considered a magical touch which can put life into a dying soul. And a big, yes, I mean a very big section of the profession works with utmost dedication and lives up to that image of a divine figure.

But in all honesty, we, the Doctors have our scopes and limitations as well, just like any other human being. There could be and there do exist amongst us a handful of people with corrupt morals and degenerated sense of responsibility. Those selfish practitioners, who cannot handle the pressure and prestige of the profession, resort to unethical practices, scandalous treatment procedure; they breach the codes of medical conduct and stigmatize the nobility of the profession. There cannot be any defence and justification for these kinds of practices. These people should be subjected to stringent legal action and punishment. But I can proudly claim that the fraction of such dark sheep is so low that they could never be the representatives of our white coat profession. A few dark deeds by a few people cannot outshine the nobility and sincerity of the mass medical world and put it under scrutiny on a huge public platform.

I am talking about the medico episode of Satyamev Jayate, where, in a fair attempt of spreading awareness and pointing out the malpractices in the medical world, a sweeping generalization was used. I didn’t find the mockery of the profession and its practices any appealing or informative, rather offensive and disgraceful to the profession and its integrity. It only tarnished the image of the doctors and portrayed their practices negatively to a billion people across the country instead of educating them. Thus failing the prime purpose of the show. I can still feel agitated on how Aamir Khan was raising his brows, widening his eyes, turning his lips in whistling position, laughing on the least funny incidents and making dialogues like “mera toh ab India mein ilaaz hone nahi wala”, “aj toh mai studio se bahar nahi ja paunga”, “saare doctors mujhse gussa honge ke kya kya dikha raha hai” and blah blah. It was a unilateral representation of the facts and the doctor’s side in the reference cases was never presented. I think they should also have called the involved doctors in the show and should have given them a fair chance to put their side of the story.

One partially irresponsible episode with a man of influence like Aamir Khan could have major negative impact on a doctor-patient relationship which is pivotal in the treatment of a patient. Faith is the cornerstone of this relationship which is bound to be affected if the patient is apprehensive of the doctor’s intentions in any regard. Medicines just correct the pathology; it is this faith which heals the patient. That is why I disprove anything which might dampen this faith between a doctor and a patient.

We are well aware of the lacunae in the functionality of all the systems in our country. There are admission scandals, kidney rackets, misuse of funds and powers and all those political interferences and corruption at various levels in the medical system too. Unleash it. Reveal it. Talk about it. Question it. Condemn it.  But for heaven’s sake, SPARE OUR WORK TACTICS! Spare the way we handle cases. When we sit to see patients we DO NOT HAVE ANY BAD INTENTIONS but the one and only thought of bringing him to recovery as soon as possible. You really think at the time when a person is bleeding in front of us, or a child is losing breath, or a lady is screaming with pains, we are actually thinking of making profits? Or getting commissions? Or the business with MRs and laboratories? HELL NO! We are doing what we deem appropriate and in the best interest of the patient at that moment. In our brains we are shuffling those many thousand pages of the elephant sized medical books to find out that one sentence which could relieve the person of all the sufferings. There is no scope of other considerations whatsoever. Such is the intensity and the pressure of the medical profession. The slightest misjudgement on the doctor’s part can make the difference of life and death and we understand it more than anyone else can.

Questioning a doctor’s opinion and calling it right or wrong: Medicine is not an absolute science like maths where two plus two always make a four. Given the vastness of the diseases and infinite combinations and permutations of them, two doctors can have different opinions about the same case. But that does not mean that one of them is right and the other one is wrong. I myself have seen a case where three different consultants gave three different opinions about the feasibility of an operative procedure. One of them advised the operation. The second one said it was high risk and better be avoided. The third one thought the medicinal management should be continued for the time being. All three of them are the most renowned in their field of expertise. And none of them was wrong. I could understand their points of view, being a doctor, but obviously, I don’t expect that from a common man and he might jump on to saying that the other doctor advised him wrong and forced an operation which was not needed. That is not true. The opinion of a doctor is always in the best interest of the patient and is based on his knowledge and experience. It is tough to explain medical pathology to a patient. So we use the simplest terms to explain it to them, while we are not intending to misinform or misguide him. For example we tell a patient that he has “jaundice and liver enlargement”, instead of telling him that he has “hepatocellular carcinoma, Hepatitis or Thrombosis of the Hepatic vein”. If the patient goes to another doctor and he uses these terms, he might accuse the previous doctor of cheating him, whereas that was not his intention.

The case of uterus removal in the village of Andhra Pradesh: The episode showed a village where hysterectomy operation was performed on most of the women and their uteri (the uterus is the internal organ that carries a foetus) were removed. This case definitely sounds too fishy and demands immediate investigations into the matter. We could have two outcomes:

  1. There is a possibility of a particular disease being rampantly prevalent in this demographic area. If that be the case, the region could be taken for epidemiological studies further.
  2. There seems to be a greater possibility of finding a big racket being active in the area which should be exposed and punished as soon as possible.

Laboratory Investigations and Diagnostic Procedure: SMJ raised many doubts about the diagnostic and lab investigation procedures in the medical field and their futility in many cases. Investigations are done for the purpose of finding out the cause of the disease, starting up the treatment, following it up in future, to assess the improvement with time and for the final prognosis of the case in hand. Let me give an example of a common symptom of headache. Out of the hundreds of the causes this could be due to as simple a cause as stress and does not need any lab investigation. But it could be due to as fatal a condition as brain tumour or an internal haemorrhage (bleeding) which needs costly investigations like CT scan and MRI. So what do we do now to find out? We give a provisional diagnosis on the basis of clinical observation and assessment. And then we go by a stepwise protocol and call for required investigations at each step to reach the final diagnosis. If one investigation gives a negative result, a common person might say, “Doctor ne faaltu mein karaya ye test”. But that is not how it is. We cannot run a risk of not doing it and face the fatal repercussions. If there is slight possibility of getting a cause, we would better go with it than not. We are not dealing with machines and it is not only money and resources we have to be cautious about. You have to do everything that it takes when your subjects can breathe and bleed. When we have access to the technologies, both the doctor and the patient want the accurate diagnosis and treatment. It is the bilateral satisfaction involved here; not only doctor’s intentions.

Medicines, their costs, medical representatives, and doctors: India has a big pharmaceutical industry which manufactures the medicines. These companies employ exhaustive marketing strategies, apparently ethical and legal, to promote their products. Meetings of a doctor and marketing representatives of these companies are just as much a part of the entire strategy. Their job is to influence and convince the doctor about the superiority of their product over the others of the same class. They give free “Physician’s samples” to the doctors. And believe you me, it’s all legal and ethical and done under white light.

Now let me tell you where the crux of the problem lies. The cost is decided by the manufacturers and is under the governmental regulatory policies. Nearly all manufacturers are engaged in a fierce competition to sell the medicines of their brand and take the lead over others. Ethics take a backseat at the level of the companies itself. Wrong practices like expanding the indications of a drug, exaggerating the efficacies, ignoring the contradictions, underplaying the adverse effects, creating unnecessary combinations of drugs, flashy presentations of the drug covers and finally directly influencing and dealing with the pharmacies to sell their products. This is what causes the vast differences in the prices of the same medicine from different brands. This is the failure of the vigilance and control by the regulatory authorities and not by the doctor. The doctor is just the last link who prescribes the medicines whose MRP is pre-decided and duly sanctioned by these authorities. When there are so many loopholes at the production level pointing the sword towards the doctors is not acceptable.

Trust me, howsoever an MR tries to influence us, we still advise an economically poor patient to eat “gud aur chana” for anaemia instead of those costly iron tablets.

Professionalism: Hard it may be to appreciate and accept, but the truth is, gone are the days when people would choose medical field with the only intention of healing and serving the humanity. The youth today is much more versatile and takes medicine as a “PROFESSION” and seeks better opportunities for livelihood and personal growth. While “serving” always remains the prime principle, we cannot go without “earning”. Doctors today do not merely prescribe, but have multiple roles to play hand in hand. In a much more advanced world where patients are much more knowledgeable, much more informed, much more expecting and much more enthusiastic to spend money on their health aspects, a doctor has to be much more professionally braced in many aspects. And there comes the practical aspects of being a doctor. Today the health care services are coming under the arena of corporate world and business has become an inevitable part of the modern medical practices. While a doctor is working for an institute/organisation established purely with business orientation, he becomes a part of a business unit and is bound to follow the standards set by it. Now this unit has all the management mantras of sharing, maximizing the profit, buying, selling merging, partnerships, cuts, rebates, commissions and everything with other medical related units. And directly or indirectly the doctor becomes an integral part of this business. Now you tell me, where does the fault lie? And is it the doctor to be blamed for such a set up? It is hard to say what is right and what is wrong here, I leave these questions open to the reader and let them draw their own conclusions about this professionalism in the medical world.

Ah! Mr Aamir Khan! Satyamev Jayate had left many nerves flickering by its partial showcasing of the story and it resulted in this vent of thoughts. While the show’s intentions were honest, so are of our profession and these should not be disgraced by revelations of petty facts without understanding their impact. This kind of mal-representation is not expected from a responsible celebrity like you whose words are absorbed by the audience like that of a religious preacher. Thank you but no thanks for such a blinding eye-opener episode on medical world. We don’t want to be bracketed with God but to be duly respected as humans and be spared from such monster-like portrayals.

If at all one needs to see the real face of the profession, they should visit some government hospital and see the senior-most doctors handling the patients in the scorching heat of rooms without electricity and sweating with the patients. See a cardiologist operating a heart while his own wife died of a heart disease. Look at a doctor trying to make a call to his daughter stuck in some jammed and mobbed area while he chooses to see his patients instead of going to fetch her. One would know what dedication and intentions are. Mr Khan, you could keep your apologies to yourself but make sure that the next time you don’t end up delivering a wrong message to the society.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal views.


About the author

Anita Phalswal

39 Comments

  • Hello Anita,

    I really liked your article and also your faith in the profession.
    But i would like to point out that even though you might be a true professional and a very honest doctor, but how do you come to the conclusion that majority of doctors or other medial professionals are the same. There are many questions being raised about the Research undertaken by SMJ’s team, but i ask where is your research for concluding that SMJ is wrong in their findings.
    Also, about faith in doctors, i think the uneducated indian population has plenty of it and that is what makes them vulnerable to malpractices. It is always better to be careful (even to the extent of not trusting) than blindly consider that the doctor treating you will have your best interests in mind. Being a doctor reading this might hurt you but it is very similar to looking both sides before crossing the road even though you might know that the light is red and traffic will not be coming.
    There was also a mention that the doctor is a very small part of this changing HelthCare business in India, which is very true and i feel this Capitalistic structure for healthcar for a country like india is the worst thing that can happen. But i also feel that a doc is not a small or far end of the chain. A Doctor is a major player without whose opinion which whole system is like Ironman suit without his Arc Reactor.

    I think SMJ’s episode might not have got all facts right but dont you think if only doctors are against this episode then there might be some problem that makes people agree with him.

    Just my opinion.

    • I liked you article because I know you are a good human being and very honest with your job. Excellent writing too: Simple and straight to the point.

      Some points I’d like to mention here:

      Personally I don’t think any doctor who is honest with his/her work should react to it. Why not just keep doing the good work.

      Plus he wasn’t that negative. He also saluted the good doctors in his show and rightly so.

      No offence but every 9 out of 10 doctors prefer money more than anything else. I’ve seen it, felt it and noticed it so many times. And I liked the show because it has happened to me more than once and I know there are a lot of people who have faced this too.

      Glad that you have so much of faith in the noble profession. That show wouldn’t have existed if there were more doctor like you in India.

      • Anil Sharma: Thank you 🙂 I’m wondering how do you know me being a good human.. he he 😀

        I already put the point that today the doctors are getting money oriented too. I can only wish that such orientation never crosses the limit where it harms our patients. And yes, rest assured I will work with all honesty to my profession and live up to the trust you have shown. Thanks a lot 🙂

        • I’ve read some of your other work too. TWS, Vehlocity. If you are what you preach then you are good. :/

          The limit has been crossed and that’s what they showed in the episode.

    • Thanks a lot 🙂
      I did not say that the facts shown in SMJ were wrong, I said the presentation was one sided. And it’s been six yrs since I know the medical world inside out and have met,seen, worked with extremely dedicated people of this profession and that experience is my research for this post.

      Indeed it’s great to be seeing more knowledgeable patients today and pretty able to differentiate the genuine practice from the mal-practice..
      And I again make my point that the doctors are not against the show but the way it was presented.
      Your feedback is appreciated 🙂

  • Hey Anita! Excellent write up! Kudos Doc. I really liked your opinion and explanations for the same. I agree that the generalizations must not have been used in the show. The medical profession must get the respect it deserves. I read your other articles too. They are as awesome as it is. Very well done. 🙂

  • mam!! *claps* u hv presented it very well.!!i wud say Aamir khan shud read it atleast once!! n do visit our hospitals before accusing!!

    • he he.. Tanya! Thank you 🙂 Let me see if I can get Aamir’s email id some where to send it to him 😀

  • Brilliantly written Anita!! Hats off!! This has been your best article so far. All the doubts have been separately sorted. I really hope this article reaches the masses! Mr. Aamir says,” dil pe baat lgegi,tabi baat banegi”. But sir, I want to modify it by saying just because you want to touch everbody’s heart, u cant add drama to it. This is a noble profession. We spend day and nights to study the heavy weighted books unlike you where one has to just read the script n you are done.

    Thank You

    • Dr Anupama: Thanks much! 🙂 ha ha.. liked the point that we don’t read the script and we are done.. good one 🙂

  • Every coin has two sides.
    There are things which both Aamir and Anita have told us and these sentences will be food for thought and help us assess the situation.

    I agree that the reputation of medical profession has been tarnished after the episode was telecasted but the instances shown in the show were real facts which are rampant in urban areas and can not be denied.
    But when these issues were brought up on the show, the sad thing which happened was the generalization aspect.

    I personally feel that the show should awaken people, that’s the purpose alright, it should cause action & those guilty should be punished, impregnating the minds of viewers with negativity won’t work, we need to awaken the law makers & judiciary, the show should focus on CHANGE.

    • Thanks much Hitesh for your feedbaack 🙂 I just wanted to show the other face of the coin and the purpose has very much been met 🙂

  • If i hadn’t watched SMJ or if i were new to this website or your articles, i’d have not only shared this but gladly posted a page of appreciation. So we’re clear with how much i liked your writing style and the way you presented yourself.
    But here’s the thing, i watched the show, i know you and how you’ve written before. So i can definitely say that i didn’t feel there was any generalisation in the show. I can see why you might have felt so, i’ll too if he starts saying that all engineers in india are not well taught (Which is the case with more than 50%). And evidently, your rage reflected in the article.
    I respect the profession and totally agree with the first paragraph. But it’s the middle part that bugs me where you outrightly rejected the possibility of his research being true and i don’t think mocking the script was a good attempt either since it’s a television show to impress a normal indian and not only the educated high class.
    Rest, i can’t argue about the facts, but i do know one thing, it’s easy to speak against something, but if we can make an impact equivalent to that, then only the attempt is useful, and this line goes for both the show and the article. A wave that SMJ created against the wrong practices in the profession and now the one you created for good parts of it.

  • Shubham: Thank you. Again someone who is seeing the article in the light of knowing me personally and hence agreeing with respect to me only. It gives some personal satisfaction 😀

    But seriously Shubham, I can assure you almost all the medics I know or talked to, felt the same way about the show and it seemed really demeaning. I could feel their anger and hence I wrote with a generalized aspect.

    What I believe is, when we are tackling some social concerns we have to be extremely careful about the message that is delivered in the process. I’m no critic of SMJ, but I saw it failing in its purpose in this particular episode. I’m not biased about my profession but am extremely proud of it. Given the seriousness of our profession, I can appreciate any drama to spice up the things. Hence disprove the mockery as well.

  • You style of writing is good, but message not very patient oriented. I can understand the sentiment and the difficulty that every sincere doctor, true to his/her profession, will face when building a rapport with their patient now that they have been sensitized to these issues. But this sensitization was essential. As they say, ‘better be safe than be sorry’. And every doctor wishing well for the patient should want his/her patient to be safe(cautious).
    I cant be sure of the credibility of Amir’s research, but in a study that i have conducted while doing masters in public health, does show similar results. And i don’t see why the medicos fail to direct their anger to the ills in the profession, which believe me are quite widespread, or to the MCI former and present chiefs, who agreed to the presence of those ills on a large scale on that very show. I haven’t come across a single article where a medico, after watching that episode, has written to fellow practitioners indulging in these unethical practices to put an end to it and not bring bad name to the profession.
    In homoeopathic world these activities do not come to the fore, because there is not much competition as far as the pharmaceutical companies are concerned. But i am really glad Amir made people aware about generic medicines and usefulness of Community based Health Insurance. He honoured those working well in the field and clearly stated that he respects them, and the students should follow their steps.
    As far as the gifts are concerned, it is unethical to accept any gifts (with price more than Rs. 1500 i suppose) and studies in Indian Journal of Medical Ethics show, that a gift even as inexpensive as a pen can alter a doctor’s decision as far as choice of medicine is concerned.
    I believe we should all take it in good spirit and remember that an empowered citizen/patient will always take better decisions, conducive to healthy life.

    • Thanks Dr Jasdeep. 🙂
      The MCI chief on the show seemed too mesmerized with the flashes of the camera. His statement were too much guarded and intended towards politically correctness. He could have spoken well with confidence in a manner of influencing people and also should have given his words towards stricter vigilance in medical practices in future, but he didn’t and was more or less mum.
      You are right for the gift part. I also wanted to extend my views on the limits of gifts and all. But could not do for the length of the post was already way too much.

  • There may be lot of honest doctors but at the same time it cannot be assumed that all the doctors are equally good.

    Nice post and good flow of language.

  • Well written but wrong. It simply appears that you can’t accept the facts. And that is evident from the fact that you have “tried” to justify even the hysterectomy incident. Rampant in that area? Seriously? You’re a doctor, right? Don’t you know what causes it? Is there any chance that it be a communicable disease?!

    Seriously, why don’t you guys get it that SMJ simply tried to show the bad part only. “The few dark sheep” as you call them. Why are you all taking it personally? Weren’t those who came to speak about it doctors too? Or are you the only and most authoritative doctor in India?

    Wasn’t it the positive side that SMJ showed through the charitable hospital? Stop thinking like a doctor and think like a common man who doesn’t know when he might stumble across one of the “dark sheep”. You might get what the episode meant.

    • Amrita: Well written: Thank you 🙂
      Wrong: Err.. Where?

      Yes, I well know what hysterectomy is. And since you seem to be led by facts, let me tell you, a Gynaecology/Obstetrics and Surgery topper, both in theory and practical. If I may correct you, Hysterectomy is not a disease and does not have a “cause”. It is a procedure and have “indications” of it. I never tried to “justify” it anywhere. I put in clear words that the wrong doers must be subjected to stringent punishment.

      Secondly, I am definitely not the most authoritative doctor of India but certainly a registered authority to put my opinion about my profession.

      Anyway, your feedback is appreciated.

      • My dear friend, I never said hysterectomy is a disease. There’s some amount of medical science/biology that we all have studied in school. I questioned your saying:

        “There is a possibility of a particular disease being rampantly prevalent in this demographic area. If that be the case, the region could be taken for epidemiological studies further.”

        and you put it upon me only. Funnily, this sounds contrary to your own definition now (which is nothing what even a lay man (educated) wouldn’t know). I know what the procedure is, I know what causes it. And guess what, I don’t have to be a topper in surgery to know that. If doctors know about what they do, we know better about who they do it upon. I hope you get the drift.

        Secondly, I have never seen a doctor flaunt her profession the way you do, and if I am not wrong, you haven’t even started out properly, yet. Please don’t mind me saying so, but I really don’t want to know whether you topped or not, as long as I am confident what I am talking about. If I am the patient, it is my body that is vulnerable, not the doctor’s. So if somebody is trying to aware me of the wrong possibilities, why do you have to interfere?

        Thirdly, I have been among doctors… senior doctors. And they have told me about, not informed but TOLD me about the bad that happens in this profession, and how it is difficult to make out the genuine ones from the bad ones these days. Come out of your comfort zone, get over yourself, and talk to people who have been practicing the profession… the actual medical profession.

        There is so much more I could say to you, but I’d stop here with the hope that you sit back for a while and think if you are really getting it right or not.

        Good bye. Keep writing.

        • Amrita: Easy. Don’t jump to pointing personally at me. As an open minded reader you are entitled to your opinion and all good parts of that I respect. I understand that you won’t take a wrong practice as a patient and that is what you intend to convey to me. Taken.

  • SMJ showed the true facts on basis of proper survey. You are taking this personally. You MAY BE a good honest doctor, so you are in touch with the like minded Docs only. You haven’t seen the other breed yet.

    One question: If most of the Doctors are good, then why Generic medicine isn’t popular?

    The show many a times praised the Doctors for the noble service they provide to the society. An IAS Doc himself said around 50-60% Docs are very good.

    Please don’t bring Aamir Khan in middle. He is good at something which you can’t do, and you are good at something which he can’t do.
    You can save lives of hundreds with your skill, he can aware crores how to save themselves on their own.

    After reading this article, I saw the show on YouTube. Nowhere I felt he generalized the whole Doctor Fraternity. Out of 8 lakhs Doctors, even if 50,000 are bad Docs, they can take lives of lakhs.
    All the accusations were directed on these people, not the good ones.
    I expect a Doctor, after studying there ass off to be Doc, to be mature enough to understand this.

    Nicely written but IMMATURE.

    P.S. : I am not an Aamir Khan fan, I hardly watch movies. 😛

    • Vishesh: You watched the episode after reading my article? That means. I increased its popularity in some manner.Damn!

      Answer to your question: Generic medicines are not popular coz there are not muxh Generic Medicine Stores in India(these are known as Janaushadhi Stores). Hardly one or two in a given state. I recently read an article in Hindustan Times about the generic medical store, Probably GTB hospital in Delhi(don’t remember the name exactly) which was opened years back but does not get any supply of regular medicines. They said that there are hardly ten medicines available in that store. Such grim is the situation.

      In fact, this is the one thing I really appreciate about the SMJ episode, that it put some light on the generic medicines.

      Nicely written: Thanks!
      IMMATURE: Accepted. Coz that leaves the scope of future improvement.

      PS: I am an Aamir Khan fan, you should watch his movies 😛

  • I can understand that you being A DOCTOR would be mad at SMJ. But, i personally think that the show took the names of only the corrupt. And, it showed us the sane ones exposing their rogue counterparts. So, It clearly didnt affect any general public notions. It just showered light upon the corrupt docs, about hom we already know. Like all other SMJ episodes, they showed us what we already knew, but needed to be reminded of that again. So, don’t worry doc.

  • Nicely written Aneata ma’am, I liked that aggression ;D. But, i liked that show and respect Amar Khan like anything. But, you were totally correct on most of your points. anyway, spare the actor, i guess he was pointing only at the corrupt.

  • (goo.gl/t97pm) Should the Govt reward a willful bank defaulter of hundreds of crores of ‘borrowed public money’ with a Padma Shri award ?

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