Assault on Doctors - Frustration, Impatience, Insult or a Mistake?

If doctors are not safe and if they don’t feel safe, how can they treat patients properly?
Chief minister of Mizoram: Zoramthanga
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Chief minister of Mizoram: Zoramthanga (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

It is very common nowadays to see in the news doctors being assaulted by patients, and their relatives for not treating them properly, making them wait or for providing improper medical treatment. Various reasons are given by these assaulters to justify their assault on medical practitioners. Maybe sometimes the patient has to suffer due to the negligence of the doctor, but it's not necessarily always true and no matter what, assault can’t be justified by anyone, irrespective of who they are. If doctors are not safe and if they don’t feel safe, how can they cure patients completely?

Even after holding so many protests by doctors to make laws and rules for their safety, the situation has not changed much. They look up to the administration for providing them protection and guarding their rights. But what will happen if they are assaulted by the administration itself, or their close ones, or family and friends?

Chief minister of Mizoram: Zoramthanga
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
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One such case recently came into the spotlight when a video of the Mizoram CM Zoramthanga’s daughter hitting a doctor went viral. It was seen in the alleged videotape that Dr. Zonunasanga, a dermatologist in Aizawl, was hit by Zoramthanga's daughter, Milari Chhangte, when he allegedly refused to see her without an appointment. Dr. Zonunasanga runs 'Zonundermacare Clinic', which is one of the most well-known private skin clinics in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram.

Over 700–800 doctors from the Indian Medical Association (IMA)-Mizoram chapter staged a protest on Saturday to denounce the alleged assault on the doctor, which has outraged the medical community in the state. Members of the IMA's Mizoram chapter also donned black badges to their workplaces. The association issued a statement which read, "We want such acts of violence against medical practitioners to never be repeated."

Letter Image Source: Zoramthanga's official instagram handle
Letter Image Source: Zoramthanga's official instagram handle
Image Source: Zoramthanga's official instagram handle
Image Source: Zoramthanga's official instagram handle

In a handwritten statement in Mizo language on his official Instagram account on Saturday night, Mr. Zoramthanga said, "We have nothing to explain or defend our daughter's actions towards the doctor." He sought an apology from both the doctor and the public. He further stated that he and his wife have personally met the doctor three times and apologized. He thanked the doctor for being mature and understanding. The CM also expressed his gratitude to the IMA for refraining from taking "stringent measures" against Chhangte. He also stated that he will do everything in his power to prevent similar incidents in the future.

We have nothing to explain or defend our daughter's actions towards the doctor."
Mr. Zoramthanga

Also, Ramthansiama, Chhangte's older brother, had previously expressed regret on social media and said that his sister "got out of control" due to mental stress.

Now the question arises, does the apology solve everything? It was not the first time something like this happened to a doctor. Was the doctor wrong in asking Chhangte to take an appointment before the meeting, or was Chhangte actually so stressed that she hit the doctor? No matter what the situation was, assaulting someone is not justifiable. Maybe this case was highlighted because the CM was involved, but what about the assault of doctors that happens frequently in hospitals for various other reasons. Will this continue to be a 'normal thing' faced by doctors or will strict action be taken against violators?

When we talk about assault it’s not just about physically hurting someone but it also includes affecting the overall health of a person whether it be physically, mentally, or socially (Unsplash)
When we talk about assault it’s not just about physically hurting someone but it also includes affecting the overall health of a person whether it be physically, mentally, or socially (Unsplash)

When we talk about assault, it’s not just about physically hurting someone, but it also includes affecting the overall health of a person, whether it be physically, mentally, or socially. When you are ill or sick or have any kind of disease or disorder, It’s not always about taking medication and getting fine. Physiologically, so many processes and reactions occur in our body. Complications can also be there in some cases. A doctor would not harm any of his patients. Think logically. What benefit will he get by doing so?

But instead of understanding the situation, we have a tendency to blame others so we don’t feel guilty. This is normal human psychology, to prevent ourselves from regret and remorse, we start blaming others so that we don’t feel bad about ourselves or to feel less pain. However, what we forget is that it may affect the mental health of another person.

Chief minister of Mizoram: Zoramthanga
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
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One such incident came to light in March 2022, when a medical practitioner, Dr. Archana Sharma, from Dausa, Rajasthan, committed suicide just to prove her innocence. An FIR was lodged at the Lalsot Police Station after the protest organized by the pregnant woman's family outside the hospital calling for swift action against the negligent physician under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

She hung herself as she became stressed after the incident. She left a suicide note in Hindi in which she pleaded with people not to bother her husband and kids after she died. She also asked them to refrain from "harassing innocent doctors."

Chief minister of Mizoram: Zoramthanga
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
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She wrote that she was not responsible for the death of the woman. She died due to PPH (postpartum hemorrhage) complications. She pleaded with people not to harass doctors so much that they have to resort to such drastic measures. She also wrote that maybe her death would prove her innocence.

After the suicide of the doctor, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot issued an order to dismiss a senior police officer and suspend a station house officer. In order to prevent similar instances from happening again and to provide the appropriate recommendations, the chief minister has ordered the formation of a committee including doctors, senior officers from the police and legal systems, and secretaries from the departments of medicine and health and medical education headed by an additional chief secretary (home). He also commented that the guilty would be punished.

But again, the question arises whether making such authorities actually solves such problems. Can this be compensated with the life of a doctor? Did making such an authority/committee actually stop such incidents?

NMC's June 2022 report
According to NMC's June 2022 report, the doctor-to-population ratio is 1:854, which is better than WHO’s standard ratio, i.e. 1:1000.

According to NMC's June 2022 report, the doctor-to-population ratio is 1:854, which is better than WHO’s standard ratio, i.e. 1:1000. But even after achieving this ratio, the condition is still the same. When talking about government hospitals, the situation worsens.

Research conducted by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) found that more than 75% of doctors have experienced violence at work. Violence can lead to sadness, insomnia, PTSD, fear, and anxiety in doctors, which can lead to absenteeism.

Chief minister of Mizoram: Zoramthanga
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
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Doctors and medical personnel in India have always been quite concerned about workplace security. There are other significant problems that alarm doctors such as the doctor-patient ratio, infrastructure limitations, unreliable working hours, an inadequate patient referral system, and a lack of security.

What do you think can be done to reduce incidents like these? Whom to blame: the administration, doctors, and patients who are ill by definition or maybe not in the right state of mind? Can making strict laws will solve this problem?

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