Doctors do avoidable surgeries to meet corporate targets, read the title of an article published in the Times of India, Chennai, today. And no, it was no April fool joke.
The article goes on to describe how doctors in corporate hospitals are given a ‘target’ to meet, every month. A doctor who made less than 10% of his patients undergo a surgery was pulled up before the hospital board.
A Pune-based NGO, SATHI (Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives), compiled data form 78 Medical practitioners to prepare a report on unethical medical practices and corruption in healthcare in India.
Quoting the article, “SATHI coordinator Dr Abhay Shukla said elective surgeries (that do not involve a medical emergency) are the most popular. “Many of these surgeries don’t involve too many risks, while at the same time fetches more revenue for the hospitals,” he said.”
Just 3 months back, Times of India reported something similar: 44% advised unnecessary surgery: 2nd opinion-givers, read the title of an article published on Jan 4, 2015. Out of 12,500 patients who were recommended surgery who went to a Mumbai-based firm that second opinion service, 44% were advised against it by doctors who gave second opinions.
One of the major problems is that doctors are paid according to the number of procedures they undertake, receiving a liberal cut of the payment the patients make for each surgery. Fortunately for us, this trend is slowly changing, and more and more hospitals are adopting a system where the pay for each medical practitioner is fixed, regardless of the number of surgeries done.
Here’s my take on the matter: Corruption and unethical practices are a part of any profession. Man’s mind, chanchala as it is, is easily swayed by promises of money and fortunes. Fortunately, most of the surgeries that are unnecessarily advised are the ones that do not involve as much risk as others: Cataract, knee replacement, C-section, hysterectomy and lower back surgeries. Some day in the future, with strict policies and stricter enforcement of rules, these unethical practices will reduce. They might never come to a stop, but they will certainly be brought under control.
What about the surgeries that are deemed ‘unavoidable’? Recently, at a presentation on the National Health Policy by Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali at the Alternate Law Forum, I met the Head of the Cardiology Department, Sathya Sai Multispeciality Hospital. After the presentation, we began talking about preventive health care, and the conversation went on for more than an hour, neither of us noticing as time flew by, standing on the pavement of the road outside the building. One thing he told me will strike a chord in you. I do not remember his exact words, but it was to this effect: “When I get a patient complaining of chest pain and an abnormal ECG, I know I’ll have probably have to open him up and operate. It is my duty to save his life. If I send him home, I know there is a chance that he could die. What do I do? I cannot send him back, even though he has brought this upon himself.”
Many of the so-called ‘necessary’ surgeries, have been brought upon oneself by the kind of diet and lifestyle we follow. The doctor cannot be blamed for performing those surgeries, can he? His job is to save your life. But wait, isn’t the YOUR job first? Shouldn’t your life, and therefore your health, be your highest priority?
If you have not thought about your health as yet, now is the time to do so. There are four factors that influence your health: food, mind, physical activity and environment. Ensure that all these four are optimal, and your health is ensured. This philosophy, propounded by Naturopathy and Yoga, is much deeper than you think. Sign up for my free online course by clicking the button below if you haven’t yet, to understand the magnitude of the situation, and the urgency of the solution.
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