This Doctors’ Day, let’s restore the primacy of the white coats

Doctor's Day
Medical students

Doctor’s Day is the birthday of Dr B C Roy

Dr Bidhanchandra Roy, a former chief minister of West Bengal, some say was the most famous doctor of India. That is why his birthday – and also his death anniversary – July 1 is observed as Doctors’ Day in the country.

While the transience of fame in an Insta age can be a complicated topic, this is not the place to discuss it. On the other hand, Dr Roy’s claim(s) to fame, some of it mythical, may not be entirely out of place this Doctor’s Day.

The advent of sophisticated diagnostic equipment still several decades away, Dr Roy, according to lore had the ability to diagnose a disease merely by looking at a person (this line perhaps deserves a disclaimer; at the time of independence India’s average life expectancy was 32 years against the current 70).

It is abominable that young resident doctors working impossible hours and holding up an often tottering system get brutalised on duty.

It was also a time when doctors were revered as Gods. A far cry from the current atmosphere of distrust and animosity against doctors. Many other things have changed apart from the advent of diagnostics. Private hospitals have come in, government presence has been reduced to villages and for the poor, medicines and health have become lucrative industries and doctors have lost their primacy in the system.

The last perhaps is really the vector sum of all of the others. The loss of trust too. What has also happened is that clinicians like Dr Roy and general physicians who were the backbone of the healthcare system back then have almost disappeared. The other thing that has lost primacy apart doctors, it is their relationship with patients. And like in any other relationship it takes two to make it work. It also takes two to not make it work.

A lot of the fall from grace of doctors is circumstantial. To recognise that is crucial for the system, for society and most of all for doctors. It is abominable that young resident doctors working impossible hours and holding up an often tottering system get brutalised on duty. While outrage is a natural and perfectly justified response, it is important for the medical fraternity to look inward this Doctor’s Day.


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