Trial by Media- an Assault?

In 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 cases are an extremely tragic events; my sympathies are totally with the families.

In the case of the young man, 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 cardiac arrest!”. At least at the end of the Post they have printed a disclaimer saying that they have just printed the Post Verbatim and do not necessarily agree with the views etc.

But in the case of the child, media trial is on, from the 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 pediatrics from a renowned institute. Even in criminal cases like murder, unless the criminal is caught red handed at 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 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 physical slap, “disclaimer” being a balm applied after the slap. In the case of the child, the attack is exactly same as the physical attack. It is not that the doctor ran away when he saw that child was in serious health issue. He tried his best. So why assault him intellectually? Is it because he is defenseless? 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 medical point of view we need to know if the correct treatment was given. Were the correct 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 anesthesia? 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 cases and decide if there was a mistake by the doctor or negligence by the doctor. If the negligence 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 same impunity as many big shots from the society are known to do.

How this events 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 normal 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 hotch potch 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 candle march? Was this a rape case? When a child dies in road accident we don’t have candle marches! We don’t start publishing history of the driver! (It may not be drivers’ mistake to start with) What are we trying to achieve here? Are these the drawbacks of TRP related stuff? Is this the drawback of having Facebook platform being readily available?

I have personally experienced what can happen due 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 becoming 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 anesthesia is used or a surgical procedure is done. In current case of the child, the reaction of something (still not known) had started 30/40 minutes later. The concerned doctor took help of another expert and a hospital overcome 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 taken a consent for the procedure? This case could be 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 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!!

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Author: panvalkarpramod

I am an engineer by training and run my own business. I like to blog but do not yet get enough time.

9 thoughts on “Trial by Media- an Assault?”

  1. I agree with essence of article. Our society need to improve depth of understanding, maturity and minimize irrational emotional sudden reactions. It needs honest re-forging improving laws and its implementation focused on most of the society.

  2. Whilst we sympathize with the families for their loss and can understand their anger when this loss is sudden and unexpected, but using social media to vent this spontaneous anger is not justified, specially when all the facts are not yet available.
    However, the news media is totally irresponsible when it sensationalizes tragic events without verifying the details. This can do some lasting damage to innocent parties.
    A good article, asking many serious questions.

  3. Thanks that a non- medico has come out with a very fair and impartial statement. The fact that it appears to be in favour of doctors is secondary . The truth pales in front of sensationalism; thanks to the media and programmers like MR AMIR Khan.

  4. The logic applies to every action. One can be judge(knowledge of rules), jury(society horns and peer evaluation) or the hangman(punishment). One can not and should not have more than one responsibility or power. What the media is doing covering all three not only in medical cases but social, finance and other areas. Expressing your opinion is desirable but drumming up support, petitions and candle marches have to be limited to social support, sympathy, condolences and care. Freedom of speech and press carries a responsibility that is easily and readily forgotten…

  5. Much can be said on all the three sides, the patients relatives, the Doctor and the Institute from where the Doctor obtained his Post graduations. In as much as we usually tend to see either only the legal angle or the human angle alone, and position ourselves only the basis of these angles, we totally ignore the spiritual angle, the spiritual attitudes of the parents of the patient, the spiritual attitude of the doctor and lastly the foundational basis of the medical Institution that awarded the degrees.

    Try as much as we may, we can never get to the root of the issue if we base our approach only on one of the two earlier angles of analysis. The moment we bring in the spiritual angle, then the subject gets subsumed into a wider discussion that encompasses all societal problems and then we see the first light of the solution, that this is a small part of a much larger and wider problem affecting the entire society, its attitudes, its behaviors, its expectations, its commitments, its sincerity, its accountability.

    This then becomes a wider of ethics and morality.

    1. Vijay, Spiritual angle is a separate issue. But in my article I am writing mainly about media who spiritually or otherwise are “NOT INTESRESTED PARTY”. Doctor and the patient are emotionally involved in this episode hence media should be careful in what they write!

      1. Panya,
        I completely forgot to mention that the fourth party to this was the Media and the Media makes or breaks the issue by being judgmental. preconceived notions, opinionated, lack of depth of knowledge and understanding of different perspectives inability to probe to depths about issues with the interviewees, keeping to surface on most questions, and in many cases I deeply suspect take biased positions because of monetary considerations. In short their ability in journalism is suspect. All this stems from a deep disconnect from spirituality.

        Even if you remove spirituality from the discussion, can the limited framework of law provide all the answers and redressals to either party for the damage done?. I am not saying that one should look at the entire episode only from the spiritual angle alone. Some elements of spirituality are necessarily present in any relationship. and when viewed from the inclusion of spiritual domains, the Media’s position becomes very very questionable. The Media has a big role to play in directing a free and fair direction to any interview. This does not happen. This is unfortunate.. I have repeatedly seen that the media cuts out the interviewee when he /she is on the right track. In that respect the media is highly superficial. Contrast how “Hard Talk” interview takes place on BBC with the contents and methodology adopted by our own Media. Trial by media is very common and a legitimate subject of grouse by the affected parties.

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