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Our wonderful medicine men

In the US, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, doctors are the third leading cause of death, writes Rajbir Deswal.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2007 22:46 IST

Close to Diwali, two-year-old Lakshmi went under the scalpel to separate her from her parasitic twin. She is now recovering. In a Singapore hospital some years ago, a similar operation on the conjoined sisters from Iran, Ladan and Laleh, had unfortunately failed. And remember Noor, the baby girl from Pakistan who’d travelled on the ‘peace bus’ to become the cultural ambassador of Indo-Pak relations? The doctors who performed these surgeries must be given credit for performing acts almost divine, attempting the impossible. Death is the risk they took for the future of medical science.

Let me make it clear at the outset that doctors are healers, and not killers. But certain related facts need consideration. “You medical people will have more lives to answer for in the other world than even we generals,” Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said.

In the US, according to the Journal of American Medical Association, doctors are the third leading cause of death. Dr Barbara Starfield of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health reports that 12,000 deaths take place each year because of unnecessary surgery, 7,000 due to medication errors, 20,000 for other reasons, 80,000 because of infections in hospitals and 106,000 due to non-error, but negative effects of drugs. In Britain, after cancer and heart diseases, medical errors are the third major cause of death, taking 40,000 lives each year.

Coming back to Ladan and Laleh, they had lived 29 years of their mutually-sustained existence with numerous incongruities and with opposing dispositions. They had strong individual likes and dislikes and were quite independent of each other on the mental plane, despite being inseparable physically. One wanted to be a lawyer and the other a journalist.

Is it not the travesty of human existence that our desires take the better of us, even if death may be staring right in our face? It can certainly not be called a death wish. But it is a wish to end a ‘deadened survival’.

One can only empathise with them, and feel sorry when their wishes don’t come true. But the fact remains that such unsuccessful but well-attempted feats do pave way for improved research. Let us wish good times for Lakshmi and give credit to our doctors.