DR PUSHPA CHATURVEDI makes a fervent plea to the people to shun violence against the medical fraternity in these tense Covid times 

Mahatma Gandhi devoted his life to ‘Ahimsa’, the practice of nonviolence, believing in Ahimsa Paramo Dharma, which means nonviolence is the supreme dutyHe inspired millions across a much-divided nation to trust each other, unite and break the shackles of British rule.

However, in this particular Covid times, his legacy seems to have been replaced by an atmosphere of ill-feeling and a sense of distrust towards the medical community, resulting in violence towards duty doctors and other health professionals, dealing with critical care at hospitals in a sincere endeavour to save patients from the jaws of death.

Trust in the doctor–patient relationship has taken a beating over the last few decades and more so now in these difficult Covid times. As I see the recent video of a horrible, violent mob attack on a young doctor in Assam over a Covid patient’s death, I feel very sad, numbed and angry. A number of questions pop up in my mind, as I myself have been a doctor for decades.

What have we come to? Why this senseless, merciless violence? What message are we giving to our younger generation, some of whom may even be aspiring to be a part of this noble profession? Will they dare to follow their aspiration of serving people after such incidents? 

Dr Pushpa Chaturvedi

Recently, violent attacks on the medical fraternity seem to be on the rise, sparked by dearth of hospital facilities, as Covid cases needing treatment in intensive care units (ICUs) keep rising. The public doesn’t seem to realise that doctors have so many limitations, even as they struggle to give their best.

It is very unfair to make doctors the scapegoats for the shortcomings of institutions and the central and state governments’ failure to be prepared for the second Covid wave. 

It’s unfortunate that people  believe in exacting immediate revenge by using physical means, without understanding the situation and the cause of deaths of patients. 

Doctors work hard, round-the-clock, have sleepless nights and  try to do their best. Unless we make the hospital environment free from fear and violence, the doctors won’t be able to work to their maximum potential. 

Hence, stopping the violence against doctors is of paramount importance. However, the problem of violence against doctors is not specific to India; it is seen in other countries as well. 

A junior doctor being beaten up by angry relatives of a deceased Covid patient in Hojai district in Assam

To curb the violence, not only requires stringent laws and strong punishment to the perpetrators, but teaching empathy to budding doctors is also important. More inputs are needed in the medical curriculum in this regard.

Proper and effective communication of the doctor with the patient and the attendants is an art, and should be taught to all young doctors. Noted Canadian physician, Dr William Osler famously said, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

I understand  that the recent Medical Protection Act of April 2020 states that violence against doctors is a non-bailable  offence and shall be punished with imprisonment, which may vary from 6 months to 7 years and with a fine, which may extend from 50,000 to 5 lakhs rupees.  

But the concern is whether this is being implemented at the right levels to provide support to the health fraternity. By the reports we read and the violence we see, I doubt its implementation. Relatives indulging in violence, destroying hospital property and assaulting health workers seem to go scot free. Violence in any form and in any setting is reprehensible and should be dealt with an iron hand. 

How then, can this be tackled ? This is the time when all the stakeholders, including the  academic fraternity and the media should come together and push for tough implementation of the law. Apart from this, all hospitals must have grievance cells to address the complaints of patients’ relatives, sincerely and compassionately. Hospitals are sanctums of healing and recuperation. 

Let’s all become nonviolent soldiers of  love,  and bring to the fore our mind, heart, and humanity, even when we are going through heartbreaks, because of our loved ones succumbing to Covid-19. 

“Nonviolence is organized love,” said Joan Baez, a singer, songwriter, musician, and activist, and very rightly so. When we organise our thoughts and listen to our heart, we will realise that violence is never the answer to our losing our loved ones.

Dr Pushpa Chaturvedi, a paediatrician with over 50 years’ experience, is an educationist and researcher, with over 100 research publications, mainly on social paediatrics in renowned medical journals. Ex-Professor and Head of Department of Paediatrics, MGIMS Sevagram, Wardha, she is a thinker, writer, poet, artist and a spiritual blogger with over 500 blogs to her credit. Dr Chaturvedi is also a keen traveller, music and nature lover.

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Featured Picture: A few days after the attack on a junior doctor in Assam’s Hojai district, doctors hold placards at Gauhati Medical College as they protest against the mishandling of Dr. Seuj Kumar Senapati, a medical officer of Udali Covid care centre. Photo courtesy: PTI