3 June 2012

Why Aamir Khan Should Not Apologize

Disclaimer : 
1. I am not a legal or medical expert. So if you spot any legal or medical flaw in the following piece, please do comment, so that I can incorporate the same.
2. This piece is focused on the Healthcare episode of Satyamev Jayate. It does not comment on whether or not the show should be there in the first place, but focuses on the backlash that particular episode faced from the Healthcare Professionals.

Most of you would have seen the Satyamev Jayate Episode on Healthcare aired on 27th may 2012. It dealt with the misdeeds of doctors and pharmaceutical companies, and the general lack of healthcare facilities in India. That got many people angry and a particular group of people are demanding an apology (Read Here). Here is my take.

Before answering any of the concerns that the aggrieved party have highlighted, I would like to probe if there is any basis for that episode. I know, Disclaimer # 2 says I will not probe into that, but this is brief. Medical Fraud (For the lack of another word) is not alien to us. There were genuine stories on the show that proved that yes, some doctors do cheat their patients (Click here). We've all gone to doctors to give us "medical certificates" in exchange for their "consultation" fees. One may not even see this as a violation, but the point I am trying to make is that they aren't God sent Angels and there are some black sheep. Thus, the show had a sound basis. It was made in good faith.

Someone told me, that sometimes patients are the cause of trouble. They insist on certain medications, operations, procedures etc. They read newspapers and Google diseases on the internet and demand "that" treatment. Some go to Singapore to get pre-natal sex determination. I agree, there are some idiotic patients. But that does not mean there are no cheating doctors. There is still scope for blame to be attached purely to some doctors.

But then not all doctors are hungry beasts. That is true. My family doctor is amazing, I truly love her. But did the show say that all doctors are hungry beats? In fact I remember seeing a story of a gentleman from Rajasthan  who started a chain of generic medicine chemists in alliance with the State Government. And of another gentleman who started a cardiac hospital that did operations at extremely subsidized costs. So the show wasn't an all out Nazi attack on all doctors. 

On another level, doctors are like any other profession - Politicians, Management Professionals, Policemen, Journalists, Flimstars, Writers etc. And time and again, news channels and media houses have conducted investigations and sting operations on them. We are all okay with stories that show them in bad light - some bank executive that pulled a multi-crore scam, or R. Raju sweeping all the money out, or some land deal of a politician, or the casting couch of Flimstars. All of them are aired on TV. It does not mean that all others are bad. The truth is, that some doctors cheat on their patients and if you are to maintain consistency, then these stories of those frauds should be aired on TV. Else, there is some solid hypocrisy by the aggrieved parties, because I did not see them coming out when the others were allegedly slandered. 

Of course, simply because there is precedence for Media Houses wrecking with alleged wrongdoers' reputations, it does not mean that they should be allowed to do so in the future. But then the problem is a greater one, not limited to Aamir Khan, or Healthcare or IMA. And for the retrospective actions of a collective media, Aamir Khan should not apologize.

A common Freedom of Speech argument applies here too. The show had a plethora of reactions. Some people were crying. Some people snubbed it. Some people threatened to file a lawsuit. Some people blogged about it. So there was no universal reaction of Doctors are Devils. People did not stop going to doctors. And in the absence of direct harm caused, you cannot claim that the show producers are guilty. Even if, some people (IQ level in question), thought all doctors are rascals, then again the fault is not of the producers. It is of the viewer. Because different viewers got different messages from the same show. So what you get from the show, is accountable to you. Not to the makers of the show.

The worst the show could've done is created a trust deficit between Doctors and Patients. And as much as I believe that Faith in your doctor is important for healing, I think that in a situation where you have cheating docs in the pool, such an attitude can only save you. Doctors and Patients enjoy a very fiduciary relationship. And some doctors have taken advantage of that. In a situation, where you cannot trust the doctor (because he isn't your family doctor, or is a new one), it is always better to be vary. Take second opinions. I am 20 years old and I go to a Child Specialist for treatment, because she's treated me since I was 0. I trust her fully. But it does not mean I extend that trust to every doctor.

Another idea that circulated through Social Networking websites was that Doctors spend large amounts of time studying and doing rural internships. Yes, they are very hardworking. Does not give them a licence to cheat. Or to escape slander when they cheat. The show said they should be charitable. Now that's just pushing it. Like I said, they are like any other profession and thus are allowed to make lots of money. From what I know, there is no cap on consultation fees. But, if you make money at the cost of someone else, you are liable for Consumer Court action, like any other profession. As for the rural internships, maybe its time we extend the same to lawyers, engineers, MBAs etc or scarp it altogether. Hypocrisy is not nice. 

Even though the charitable remark is incorrect, an apology is still not in order. That's not defamation. If I have to make a show on some doctors committing wrong actions, and I cannot name the doctors, because the matter is sub judice, what am I to call doctors other than doctors. The underlining idea was talking about "bad" guys.

One thing I'd like to say very much. Please do not bring Aamir Khan, his salary, his illegitimate children or his brother into this. A college going student of Logic would tell you that it is called an ad hominem fallcy. It's as bad as saying Jimi Hendrix died of drug overdose, so his music is useless (From Wikipedia). You should look for merit and demerits in what he is saying and not merits and demerits in him. If he says doctors should be charitable, look for merits and demerits in that, and not "He's not charitable, he is asking 3 crores, so I will not be charitable!" You do your bit.

Just two more things, be patient. Everyone knows that there are some bad doctors. And they shouldn't really be doing the bad things. Maybe they are pressured by inflation and rising family demands, but the brunt of that cannot be borne by the life of a patient. My personal belief is that when they asked for that apology, they sent out the message that No, all doctors are very fine. So what they ended up doing was, putting up this huge cloak on the bad ones. Well in fact what they should've been doing was developing a mechanism to weed out the bad ones. We can't continue like this - his fault, your fault, you apologize. There is no difference between the politicians we so dislike and this. There are some bad people, we don't want to cover them. Must "do" something.

Finally. Doctors are special people. Some even treat them like God. And that is perhaps more of an occupational hazard, than a compliment. It puts them in sticky situations with moral dilemmas and confusions. People expect charitable behaviour from everyone (except themselves), and more so from doctors. That is unfair and incorrect. So when they aren't charitable, it hurts a little. But that's manageable - people get charity rejections all the time. But expecting ethical behaviour is important. And when that gets breached it hurts a lot. And that is not specific to doctors. When you violate your ethics, other people get hurt. So if you have a standard to expect of others, apply that to yourself. But, in a case they falter on their ethics, does not mean you give up yours.

After this, I don't think an apology is needed. But of course,

Truth alone Triumphs.


Unknown said...

Brilliant. I love it.

Ankita said...

thank you Rohan.. I so wanted to see something like this...I am the lazy one so did not do it myself..but I appreciate your efforts and the points you put across systematically. I was also wondering that why all the docs are asking for apology on FB(as,I have seen it there only), I mean..Amir Khan did not say "all the doctors are bad". People say that today NGOs are way of making money but do I need to get offended? of course not, because I am clear of my intentions.

Once again nice piece of writing :)

Rohan Chawla said...

@ Unknown
Thank You.

@ Ankita
As long as someone wrote it, I guess it works :)
Yup, there are a lot of Anti-Aamir posts that I too saw on Facebook. That's right, one just needs to do their part and be sure of their intentions. The amount of energy spent in claims and counter claims, could've been spent fruitfully in so many other ways!

Thank you for reading and sharing! :D

Anonymous said...

Great . keep sharing such thoughts .

Rohan Chawla said...

I'll keep trying. Thank you for reading :)