Trial by Media- an Assault?

In the last few days, I have read about two unfortunate medical cases one in which a young man, 30 years old, died a sudden death, in Southern India. In the second case, a small child died while a dental treatment was going on, in Pune. Both instances are incredibly tragic events; my sympathies are total with the families.

In the case of the young man, a Facebook post written by the young man’s wife was printed verbatim by Daily Bhaskar with a headline, “Monster Doctor did nothing while patient had a cardiac arrest!”. At least at the end of the Post, they have printed a disclaimer saying that they have just published the Post Verbatim and do not necessarily agree with the views etc.

But in the case of the child, media trial is on, from day one, after the mishap took place. The so-called leading news daily of India printed the photo of the Doctors’ name board!! When we watch these things from far, everything is hazy. But some decorum needs to be followed. One can understand the parents & close relatives of the child, making strong statements, as they are in grief; this cannot be justified though understandable!! There was a discussion claiming that maybe the doctor was a quack. Come on, the Doctor is PG in paediatrics from a renowned institute. Even in criminal cases like murder, unless the criminal is caught red-handed at the site, his/her name is not declared, if it is practical. What right the reporters and for that matter, the society, in general, have to judge a person without knowing details!

We hear about cases where families have attacked the Doctors physically when a patient has suddenly died. This has usually happened in the case of uneducated families. How is this assault justified in any way? Media attack and social media attacks are Assaults with a different name. In the latest cases, the headline about the “Monster Doctor” is a veiled slap on the face of the Doctor and not any different from the physical slap, “disclaimer” being a balm applied after the slap. In the case of the child, the attack is exactly the same as the physical attack. It is not that the doctor ran away when he saw that child was in grave health issue. He tried his best. So why assault him intellectually? Is it because he is defenceless? If the doctor tries to give any statement, it will be misinterpreted so he cannot say anything. So the media and society keep on slapping him.

From the medical point of view, we need to know if the correct treatment was given. Were the proper procedures & or protocols followed? Was the child going through some other treatment, at that time, and was on medication? Was this informed to the doctor? Was the child given local anaesthesia? Did the reaction occur immediately or after some time? There is a mechanism in place where such cases are referred to a medical panel. This panel is empowered to study the facts and decide if there was a mistake by the doctor or negligence by the doctor. If the oversight is proven, then the doctor can be charged by the police under due process of law. We do not expect a doctor to overcome such police cases with the same impunity as many big shots from the society are known to do.

How this event should be handled. This is not politics where party A will attack party B and so on. Politics is a business. In current medical cases, individuals involved are rational human beings like you and me. Is it right for the media to give “exposes”? Is the doctor hiding anything? Is the medical council hiding anything? Due course of action has to start, yet. If some hotchpotch happens in this process of inquiry, then the media can go into depth. Here media is trying to show as if the doctor is a villain. What does society achieve by taking a candle march? Was this a rape case? When a child dies in a road accident, we don’t have candle marches! We don’t start publishing the history of the driver! (It may not be drivers’ mistake to begin with) What are we trying to achieve here? Are these the drawbacks of TRP related stuff? Is this the drawback of having the Facebook platform being readily available?

I have personally experienced what can happen due to a reaction of an injection. Years back when penicillin was used regularly, my mother was injected with penicillin. From the same ampule, my nephew was also injected. I was sitting next to my mother; within one minute my mother just collapsed and fell on me. Her hands and feet started becoming cold, and she started growing black and blue! This all happened within 2/3 minutes. Luckily an Oxygen Cylinder was readily available so was Adrenalin injection. She was treated with all this immediately, and she came back from the brink, after fifteen minutes! We were all just praying, or maybe we just did not know what was happening!! Was this attempted murder? No, it was not! My mother had taken penicillin shots before and had no known reaction history, but her body still reacted differently. These things are known to happen, that is why doctors take a consent form before anaesthesia is used or a surgical procedure is done. In the current case of the child, the reaction of something (still not known) had started 30/40 minutes later. The concerned doctor took the help of another expert, and a hospital overcomes the reaction issue and to revive the child. Sadly this did not happen.

Does consent taken absolve doctors of the responsibility? On the other hand, will the doctor ignore the reaction just because he/she has received permission for the procedure? This case could be a drug reaction, misjudgement of the doctor but this is decided not by you and me. Let the law take its own course. What the society can do is to ask for a quick report from the medical committee and let the action start as quickly. “Justice delayed is justice denied” should not happen in such cases. But let us not become judges, juries or maybe God and try to fix the destiny of a human being without following the right procedures! There is no short cut to anything, and that applies to justice also.

God bless both families in which deaths took place but also let us give the professionals involved leeway of trying to prove their innocence. Ultimately they also have a family!!