With reference to your editorial The malady lingers (June 22), the fact that a doctor-couple allowed their teenager son to perform an operation is not just a case of violation of professional responsibility and ethics or promoting callousness in a highly-skilled and technical profession, it is an appalling expression of parental aspirations. It also speaks volumes for parents who exploit their children for their own glory, as seems to have been the case in this instance. Teenaged children must be counselled so that they don’t fall victim to exaggerated expectations. This obsession with making records must be be fought by all right-thinking people.
While I agree that it was irresponsible of this couple to take risks with a patient’s life, I wish to draw attention to another aspect. The shrill response of the medical fraternity seems to be an incredulous reaction to the fact that an unskilled person could perform an operation and the patient survived. In 2000, the country had 1.25 million doctors and 0.8 million nurses. On the other hand, the ratio of hospital beds to population in rural India is 15 times lower than that for urban India. The ratio of doctors to population in rural areas is almost six times lower that in urban areas.
Since doctors and medical professionals are unwilling to work where the need is the greatest, it is sometimes necessary to teach basic medicine, surgery, and obstetric skills to village women. But resistance to this comes from doctors, and various medical associations who balk at the thought of medicine being demystified and practised by those who are not trained.
Dr Pradeep Ninan