The Nation, Lahore

June 25 , 1996, Lahore Pakistan 



Food for Thought

Denying Treatment


Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar

I was a medical student at the time when on the advice of some stupid advisors our rulers decided that if a doctor wants to join the government service he must reappear in a clinical exam. It was such a stupid decision that threatened all medical degree holders throughout Pakistan. If our own government is not satisfied with our medical skills than how can any foreign country accept us? There may he many shortcomings in our system of medical education but the proper way is to correct those flaws and not to impose a super test which is again vulnerable to more corruption. Anyway doctors started a campaign against it. Nothing special was happening and as the county was being ruled by the military ,there was no hope of reversal of this decision.

On one fateful day when students and doctors were protesting in front, of the Provincial Assembly and wanted to meet their representatives (beginning of PM Junejo era), the police lost its patience and lathi charge was ordered. Unprepared lady doctors and students of Fatim'a Jinnah Medical College were badly treated and all medical colleges and 'hospitals decided to take out a procession on the very next day from Fatima Jinnah Medical College. Police cordoned off the area but many doctors and medical students managed to reach the college. Doctors tried to take out a procession but p9li~e arrested more than one hundred doctors. Many of them were senior physicians of the city like Dr Maj. Muzaffar Shah, Dr Ishfaq Rana and Dr Tariq Mian (Sec. PMA Lahore). The crowd was without leaders now so a battle: started between the remaining doctors and police which lasted for many hours. 15olice fired large number of tear gas shells even in the hospital and caused great misery to the patients.

By evening when this news broke out nearly every hospital in' the city was closed except for the emergency services. Next day was the proposed examination. The ill-advised rulers tried to go ahead with their plans but doctors showed great unity as nearly everyone boycotted this exam (except one girl out of a many thousands).

The strike went on for nearly twenty days and I was always in the forefront. Eventually the government decided": to reverse' its previous decision but only after much trouble and misery to the doctors and the patients. They only started to listen, when the doctors came out on the streets.

In those days I came across many patients who needed treatment but we were not helping them. We were very much hurt ourselves and I thought' that we had no option left. The government does not listen to you until you do something drastic. But sometimes I felt a little guilty as we were refusing treatment to those who are already very poor and can't afford to go 'td private doctors.

When I graduated, sometimes on very trivial things, we used to close down the hospitals. We were quite frustrated. The government does not even provide a clean toilet to a young doctor who is on a forty eight hour duty leave alone the very insulting pay and other working conditions.

During these days one day I watched an Indian art movie (I don't remember its" name .now). It was about strike of doctors and its consequences on the poor people. It really shook my faith on the strike as a means to get justice.

Again one day when the hospital was closed due to some strike, disappointed relatives of a poor patient asked me' wliat had they done wrong. Was it not the doctor's prime duty to save lives?

A few days after r had a severe headache. By chance it was middle of night and there was no medicine at, home. I endured great pain and in those hours my only thoughts were confined to my headache. I wanted relief immediately and I was not concerned with anything else. Luckily found a medicine and felt better after an hour of taking it. This incident again shook my belief on strikes because if I could not tolerate a simple headache it is very immoral to deny treatment to patients no matter what grave grievances we have. against anyone.

Though doctors are not completely responsible for these attitudes as the government does not listen to you unless you stop work and come on me streets. The government must understand that doctors are not some other communal workers. They must need peace of mind if you want them to take care of the sick. They must be provided secure working conditions. At least they should be allowed to make clinical decisions independent of sifarish of MNAs and MPAs. Day by day doctors are being humiliated by some of our corrupt representatives. Doctors are being attacked and even killed but in many cases no firm action has ever been taken. In these circumstances doctors feel justified to go on strikes..

But doctors cannot deny treatment to anyone. This is the basic principle of our ethics. Just suppose, in a war a wounded Indian soldier is brought to you, who may have killed our own countrymen, even bombed your residential areas but if he comes to you in a wounded state what are you going to do? You are not going to kill him and you can't refuse him treatment. If you are an ethical doctor or a good Muslim you must carefully treat him. This is what our religion and our medical profession teaches us.

So if we can't deny treatment to our worst enemies how come we deny treatment to our poor brothers and sisters when they are not even at fault. No matter what the grievances we may have against the government or anyone else it is simply wrong to deny treatment to the public. We must find other ways to register our protest and even should start proper lobbying for our problems. We should use the media to get attention the government. It is a sorry picture that for the poet many years professional leaders of PMA (Pakistan Medical Association) go on strikes just to keep their say in the doctors' politics. And some times; decisions are already made and PMA is given a few weeks to start an agitation that the favourites remain in the forefront of doctor’s politics. Now with the division of the FMA both groups announce strikes so that they may not be left behind in this race and lose sympathy of some grieved doctors.

Senior me members of this profession should deem it their duty to come forward and reorganise the PMA and tell the next generation how sacred their profession is. Every. doctor must bear in mind that be can't deny treatment to anyone no matter what be the circumstances. Again if we can't deny treatment to an enemy soldier how can we deny treatment to our own public?

Back to Top


Return to the Home Page of Jawad
Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar
Email -- [email protected]
Web --
Send a comment