Gratitude of the Patient and Public

We, of the medical profession in India are fortunate in that we continue to get from our patients gratitude, sometimes out of proportion to the services we render to them. This is not so elsewhere. In the USA, today 40 per cent of doctors have a chance of being sued for medical malpractice once in a lifetime. In India, medical malpractice suits are almost non-existent. In my forty years of experience as a physician, most common complaints about doctors arise out of rudeness, apathy or negligence. Most patients are incapable of judging the clinical competence of doctors especially in a complex illness, hence they may turn to other doctors for opinion about the correctness or otherwise of treatment in a fatal outcome. In a climate of distrust, the public may feel that doctors will support their professional colleagues and will not expose them. What is the remedy?

Just as the relationship between the patient and the individual doctor is based on natural trust, the relationship between patients and hospitals is also based on trust. The hospital should prove its trustworthiness by a continuous process of medical audit and quality assurance of its performance through a peer review. It would be reassuring to the public that every death or mis-happening is investigated and corrective action is taken to prevent such happenings again, in the hospitals where they get admitted Responsible members of the public could also be associated with such an audit which is not meant to be punitive but constructive to maintain the quality of care. Trust in the public eye is the most valuable asset of a hospital.