Many people do not realise the seriousness of a situation and tend to think that doctors charge exhorbitant fees. There was the occasion when a child was brought to me with a foreign body (a tamarind seed) lodged in his airway passage of lungs. This is a serious medical emergency and needs immediate attention. I successfully removed the offending body and saved the child. When the case was brought to me, I had no time to discuss my fees with the parents. There was no time to waste. Once the treatment was over, I quoted my fees which the parents thought were too high, considering the nature of the operation which they perceived as being simple. I had no desire to argue with the parents. I was happy to have saved the child and suggested that they pay me whatever they thought was fair. Some ten days later, the child's father was back pleading with me to accept my fees in full. It turned out that the previous day he had read of an incident in a local paper in which a child with a complaint similar to that for which his own had been treated, had died. That, said the father, made him realise the magnitude of the service I had rendered and he wanted to make recompense for it! Doctors do get bullied at times!

One day a patient was brought to the K.E.M. Hospital. Both his lower limbs had been severed in a train accident. He was a dispatch peon working for a multinational company. He was treated for both shock and injury. In the evening, the Managing Director of the company, an Englishman came to inquire about the progress of the patient and told me not to spare any effort in rehabilitating his employee. When I said that the man was poor and was, besides, the sole bread earner in the family, he said, his company, would foot the bills. Three weeks later, he was back again with the request that I provide him with specifications for artificial limbs for the peon so that they can be procured from England. I told him that that was not necessary. There was an Army factory in Pune that made artificial limbs but they had a long waiting list and I suggested that the peon register his name at once.

We kept the peon in the hospital until he recovered fully. He was fitted with the artificial limbs and the multinational company rehabilitated him by giving him a job as a liftman with a high stool to sit. I narrate this because my experience with some Indian companies has been different. All that these companies were interested in was in minimising the gravity of injuries to avoid compensation. Some of these companies were not above attempting to bribe doctors.

In one of the city hospitals, I met a patient who had met with a motor accident. He was a foreigner. His left elbow and left ear were badly damaged. His orthopaedic surgeon had told him that he would have a stiff elbow but his arm would be saved. This obviously suggested a limited disability. His suggestion to the doctor was to have his hand chopped off so that he could get full--and heavy-compensation! Needless to say his suggestion was not acceptable to the doctor. The things that people are willing to do to make some easy money! In foreign countries, the patients with insurance cover run to insurance companies first before getting admitted to hospital. I am afraid this trend will percolate into our culture also. Patients who are insured insist these days on getting fat bills for their treatment so as to recover the same from insurance companies, making allowance for a small consideration to the treating physician.

Once when I was walking in the corridors of the K.E.M. Hospital, I met a young man who was obviously from Uttar Pradesh. He was a graduate and had come to Bombay seeking employment. He had not been successful for  the last two months. He wanted, in all seriousness, to 'sell' one of his eyes for a consideration, as he was in dire need of money. I felt a great pity him and gave him ten rupees. Why talk of banning the sale of when we cannot provide the basic needs of our people?