Let me clarify, I am not an apocalypse monger and neither is this about our ailing healthcare system, lack of doctors/staff or the dilapidated hospitals (we need those too no doubt).
This is about our social thought, as patients, as healthcare seekers.
Thought process observed over a lifetime, first as a lay person and then as a doctor, but more importantly always as a person of science.
The lack of scientific temerament is widespread but in our hill state it is compounded by the trifecta of superstition, naivety bordering on ignorance and abundance of “medical” advice.
Lets take them reverse chronologically.
India is the country with the maximum number of doctors. Every Mrs xyz will tell you how almonds and aloe Vera shake (or any other arcane concoction for that matter) is better for this type of cancer than x amounts of chemo, prescribed by a certified oncologist.
It doesn’t matter if a danish researcher found those results in 10 mice in a lab or as is mostly the case a babaji on a holier-than-thou channel said it.
When you have aastha you dont need doctors right?
Anecdotal evidence weighs over decades of scientific advances. People go to great lengths to defend how herbal means no side effects, how herbal means safe while completely oblivios to the fact that the earliest poisons discovered were all plant based poisons.
Which brings us to the second point.
Bad advice is not actually bad for someone untill put to practise and sadly being chaste paharis with an ingenous nature is not an excuse, not any more, not in the age that we live in.
But people are not to be blamed for not knowing better (though they can be for spreading half knowledge). It is our social institutions (or lack thereof) who are at fault and this brings us to the first point.
In my opinion, a brilliant and curious child in a rural (or even urban) hamlet stands little chance to learn if he is told right from the childhood that in the “land of gods” everything that happens in his life is controlled by a deity, or that the planetary alignment at the time of HIS birth is the cause of this terrible sickness that has befallen his father.
How would such indoctrination from a tender age shape his healthcare seeking behavior? Definitely away from logic and reason but clearly towards fear and denial, things superstition feeds upon.
Few months ago I saw a child who was a fairly clear case of epileptic fits being taken not for tests but to a mountaintop temple to rid him of evil spirits. Faith no doubt is a great healer but a few tablets would have helped that boy much more. Superstion in the face of adequate doctors and affordable treatment, for a curable condition, is a great disservice, not only to that boy but to all boys, to generations of mankind.
I can carry on this dissection of our common conscience for lengths on end but that wouldn’t yield quantitative results. While we can argue about how ayurveda is the bees knees and how a particular upaay helped our distant uncles cousins mother and how godless and greedy doctors are, I believe a more constructive dialogue would begin on the lines of education.
The guiding light, the great liberator of the masses, education is the only force which can right all that is wrong. Like a gentle river shaping the stones to perfection over time. Educating (not teaching, we already teach and preach a lot) our youth is the true and only “sanjeevani”, the one real panacea. How it can be done at the ground level from a operational and executional point of view is a matter open for the readers to discuss and innovate upon.
After finishing his MBBS, Rishi is pursuing his MBA.