Tuesday, 27 May 2014

CRUELER THAN DEATH

The wait had already been long enough. Gopalrao's back was beginning to hurt. There were a lot of other patients waiting with him, and he had been forced to contort his body into a painfully compressed form in order to let a seventh person occupy a bench meant for six. 'Why do people have to get their entire families along to such a morbid place?' he thought to himself. That the kid seated next to him - grandson of the patient after him, he assumed - was making faces at him was not helping lift his spirits at all. He had already been in a terrible frame of mind, much beforre he had entered the clinic.

A week ago, Dr.Bapat who practised from the village in which Gopalrao lived had referred him to Dr.Anil, a well-known Oncologist in Mumbai city. The signs had gotten increasingly worrying - rapid weight loss, lumps in the armpit, warts on his neck and groin area, frequent bouts of headache and nausea - Dr.Bapat feared there was more than met the eye. A biopsy on some of the skin lesions showed symptoms that were compatible with lymphoma. Hence, he thought Gopalrao needed to get some tests done by an Oncologist to determine whether he was okay or not, and for further treatment if necessary.

Gopalrao had never heard about Oncologists. He thought his condition might be rare, and he'd finish with his appointment in no time. The huge crowd at the clinic was therefore a big shock for him.

Finally, after more than 90 minutes of waiting, his turn arrived. He pushed the door open, without knocking. He saw a grey-haired, pot-bellied man, wearing a white coat, with a stethoscope around his neck, seated at a desk, staring at a computer screen. The man did not turn once to look at who had entered.

Gopalrao quietly stepped forward and sat down without being asked to.

After 5 minutes of screen-gawking, all Dr.Anil could say was, "Yes?"

"Doctor Saheb, my village doctor sent me to you. He says you can see me and tell me whether I have cancer"

"Hmm", he hummed, "What do you do?"

"I'm a humble farmer back in my village"

"Hmm. Show me your file"

Gopalrao handed over his file.

It took hardly 20 seconds for Dr.Anil to scan the file and come to a quick solution.

"Okay, lie down on this bed."

The doctor plugged his stethoscope into his ears and moved the scope around his patients body real quick.

"You can get up now."

After they were seated again, the doctor was out with his verdict.

"We will need to run a few tests on you. We will need to take a few blood samples. The test results will come in about 14 days. Okay?"

"Okay saheb."

"Alright. Go outside and make your payments at the reception table. After you make your payment, you will be taken to the lab for your blood samples." Having made his point clear, the doctor went back to his monitor-gazing state,

"Thank you Saheb", Gopalrao said, without eliciting a response.

He walked towards the reception counter and asked feebly, "How much?"

The receptionist met his sullen gaze with a cold one and said, "Consultation fees and blood test charges". She then handed him a receipt.

What he saw left him dumb-founded - Rs.3000 for consultation fees and Rs.20000 for the blood test.

He felt a sudden shot of pain in his chest, that quickly spread to his arm and up to his jaw. He collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath.

As he took in his last few breaths, he wished for instant death instead of burdening his poor family with treatment costs and debt that would last for a lifetime.

He got his wish.

Death is a bitch...but sometimes it's a little less cruel than some doctors.

19 comments:

  1. In a country like ours, where the tax money goes into the politicians pocket, this is not rare. If they can't do anything else for the poor, at least they should provide cheap healthcare facilities for them.
    #hopeful

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    Replies
    1. Our tax structures are designed to hurt the ultimate consumer. Hotels, gyms, doctors, etc all pass their taxes to us. Pharma companies and doctors are more keen on their margins than healing people. Sad times indeed. I sometimes wonder whether they actually have found a cure for critical diseases but are holding back just to keep milking the cash cow.

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  2. Hi Bro, You wrote the reality and harshness at its best. Kudos. This is one of the heart aches our country is having for a long time. So far, no medicines or treatment available, no, not made available! We lost ethics long time back, now Hospitals are mere profit centers and Patients are just investment! -

    Regards
    Dinesh

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  3. Whoa! Arent the figures a bit too exaggerated... :-/

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    Replies
    1. No ma'am. I was once referred to a naamcheen oncologist and he charged me 3500 as consultation fees and 12000 for blood tests only coz they were 'basic' tests.

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  4. A sad state of the country, where foreigners seek Indian medical treatment while on the other hand our own countrymen cannot afford the treatment. Well written

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    Replies
    1. I'm not saying all of em are unethical bastards. There are many who work wholeheartedly for next to nothing. On the other hand there are many who only care about their profits and huge commissions.

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  5. Wow what a strong punch on the face of Indian Medical fraternity ?! Sad state of affairs this is.
    Loved the sharp twist in the end!

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  6. The amount is preposterous! good lord!

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    Replies
    1. Sure is. Even if the doctor saves his life, it would be a debt-ridden life.

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  7. Sad but true..some doctors are more interested in filling their pockets than in saving people's lives!!

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    Replies
    1. Really! It's no longer a noble profession.

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  8. Strong depiction of the sad reality of medical treatment. It is unfortunate that many of the doctors are infected by the disease of "make more money by hook or crook"

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    Replies
    1. Very infectious disease indeed.

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  9. Bitch indeed. And to think that this actually happens to hundreds if not thousands in different ways. Sad.

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  10. This is a harsh reality! If poor wants to live, he needs to die! I have seen heard so many instances where people get deprived of good treatement because they can not afford it! Why is it so difficult for money making hospitals to do some charity on those who are marred by life!!! One doctor will refer you to your friend and tell you he will give you 500rs discount and you buy that. After going there doctor catches you in a loop of ten more visit costing rs 1000 per consultancy- no one interested in curing your illness!
    Brilliantly scripted CRD! I felt i was reading a chapter from some novel :-)

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