The issue of private hospitals overcharging patients, subjecting patients to unnecessary medical investigations and prescribing unnecessary medicines to inflate medical bills is getting bigger by the day in Mysore and across India. This was the focus of discussion during the monthly meeting of Mysore Grahakara Parishat held on January 8.
The most common observation among the speakers was that the doctors and hospitals keep them in the dark about the treatment or are given very little information or explanation about a course of treatment. The patients and their family are hardly given any time to seek a second opinion as the hospitals make it appear that delay might cause serious impairment or even death. At the end of it all, the hospital bill often comes as a shock and the patients or the families are either not financially prepared or do not have the means to pay. According to Medical Council of India guidelines, a written consent from the patient or his immediate family is mandatory for any operation. Often hospitals either do not share the treatment details with the patients or create documents depending on the circumstance, again violating MCI guidelines. Some are believed to have manipulated or forged signatures on documents.
In a heartrending incident, a young lady suffering from pain in the abdomen had her uterus removed without her knowledge. Her pain had only increased after the operation. As she shared her experience, she appeared to be still in agony. The worst culprit is the medical illiteracy among the patients both of the course of treatment or the legal procedures involved. Patients or the family members are asked to sign undertaking by the hospital (sometimes on blank forms) to ensure they are safeguarded in the event the treatment goes wrong or in the event of a suit for medical negligence.
Any doubt about the genuineness of the accounts shared by the individuals about their experiences while undergoing treatment in hospitals was removed when medical doctors present endorsed the accounts shared. One doctor with four decades of experience in the US narrated an incident when he literally forced a hospital to discharge a friend who was to undergo an operation for removal of his prostate gland when there was absolutely no need. Yet another professor of pharmacology present lamented that greed had overtaken this noble profession of healing and reduced it to looting people through unethical practices. He observed that pharmacies were increasingly prescribing medicines instead of dispensing and this was a dangerous trend. “Doctors are also prescribing more medicines than required and denying the natural ability of the human body to cure itself,” he added.
This is not to say that all hospitals are bad or that all doctors violate the Hippocratic Oath they take to serve mankind at the time of their graduation. But the number of bad eggs in the profession seems to be increasing, bringing shame and disrepute to the noble profession as a whole.
By Ashvini Ranjan
(The writer is from Mysore Grahakara Parishat)