Saturday, August 16, 2014

Doctor - Patient Relationship

We come across different types of doctors in our daily life. Some are quite good in diagnostic skills and very courteous in dealing with patients. Such doctors are perhaps very few in number.

Some medics are experts in diagnosis, but patient - unfriendly. Patients normally put up with them valuing them for their expertise and adjust themselves in order not to get exposed to doctors' ire.

Yet some others are patient-friendly, but unfortunately are not adept at diagnosis. Patients tolerate them if they have minor ailments and sometimes gain access to better skilled-doctors through the friendly doctor.

The fourth category is society's bane. Their diagnosis is faulty and patient-relationship adversarial.

I had the misfortune to come across such a doctor last Monday and Thursday. He is an eye-surgeon practising in Mandavelipakkam, Chennai. I accompanied a patient who had red right eye. The eye-doctor lost no time in 'diagnosing acute viral conjunctivitis'. He had a ready-made prescription on his table. He only wrote the name of the patient on the prescription and asked him to come back on Thursday for review.

When the patient visited on Thursday, the doctor insisted that it was a case of acute viral conjunctivitis. He added it was an infection and would spread unless adequate precautions were taken. He was aware that there was no problem in the left eye and that the ailment had not infected others. He continued to maintain it was viral, an infection and the affected part was conjunctiva.

The doctor orally abused the patient and warned him not to 'keep telling others' that the doctor was useless. The patient was surprised at this uncalled for warning. I confronted the doctor protesting  against wild allegation and warning. (I don't know if the doctor was getting frustrated with his inability to diagnose.) The unprofessional doctor took exception to the patient and me saying that the symptom (redness of eye) had worsened since Monday. He claimed that only doctors can comment on symptoms, as if the affected patient knows nothing about his own symptoms. Obviously, the doctor was mistaking symptom for the ailment causing the symptom.

Taken aback by the doctor's callous rudeness and un-Hippocratic behaviour, we went to another eye-doctor. This doctor examined the patient as any doctor is supposed to do and clarified that the ailment was not viral, not an infection. It was diagnosed as iritis, an inflammation of iris which surrounds the pupil of the eye. The doctor advised the patient not to use the inappropriate medicines prescribed by the other doctor. Iritis is a more serious problem than conjunctivitis (aka Madras eye).

I understood from this doctor that it is very difficult for an eye-doctor to mistake iritis for conjunctivitis. Some doctors specialise in doing the difficult !

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