Mythology and Medical EthicsJune 15, 2011 7:57 pm Health Care
Â A medical doctor is accorded a status next to God as he or she has a duty to heal the sick irrespective of their caste, creed, race or financial status. The classical description of the duty of a doctor was depicted in the Hindi film â€˜Achanakâ€™ by Gulzar in 1973.
Â In the movie, Vinod Khanna plays the character of an army man who loves his wife intensely. He returns home after the 1971 war to find his wife, actress Lily Chakravarti, involved with his close friend. In a fit of emotion, he kills his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to death but is wounded in an attempt to escape the police. At the hospital he is looked after by a team of doctors (Om Shivpuri, Asrani) and a nurse (Farida Jalal). They work hard day in and day out to save him from the lethal injury only to hand him over to the police chief (Iftikhar) for the due capital punishment. The story ends with the message that the duty of the doctor is to save the dying man and the duty of the policeman is to award the due deserved capital punishment.
Â Historically, the first known example of medical ethics comes from the story of Ramayana. During the war between Lord Rama and Ravana, Meghnath shot a Brahmastra shakti baan (arrow) that hit Laxmana and he became unconscious.
Â Vibhishana informed Sri Rama about a physician, Sushena, who lived in Lanka. Hanumana was asked to bring him. He brought Vaidya Sushena, together with his house. Vaidya Sushena, well aware that he was a physician attached to the kingdom of Ravana, and that treating Lakshmana could end up annoying Ravana, took a conscious ethical decision of treating the wounded Lakshmana. He said that only the â€˜Sanjivani Bootiâ€™ (an herb found only on Sumeru Hill) could save Laxmana. But that herb grew on Himalayas at a great height and needed to be brought before day break. Then Jambavanta reminded Hanumana that only he could bring back the â€˜bootiâ€™ before sunrise. He said, â€œFly across the ocean to Himalaya Mountains and bring back herbs Mritha Sanjivani, Vishalya karani, Savamakarani and Sandhanakarani.â€
Â Hanuman went to Sumeru Hill, which was far, far away from the battlefield. There he found several herbs that looked similar to the â€˜Sanjivani Bootiâ€™. Confused, Hanumana immediately lifted Sumeru Hill in his right hand and flew back to the battlefield in Lanka. Thus, Laxmana was saved by Vaidya Sushena who waited by Lakshamanâ€™s side till Hanuman returned with the remedy.
Â Both the above depictions relate to the true message later described in the classical Hippocratic Oath, traditionally taken by physicians pertaining to the ethical practice of medicine. But today many doctors are ruining the image of the medical profession. They indulge in indiscriminate sex determination, carry out illegal abortions, making people beggars by cutting their hands, making males eunuchs by castrating their private parts, illegal organ trade or getting involved with the criminals and helping them in torturing their captive persons. The classical example is what happened in Iraq.
Â We should take lessons from the movie â€˜Achanakâ€™ and from Vaidya Sushena who stood by his professional duty and acted according to what was right and ethical.
Â About the author : Padmashri & Dr. B.C. Roy National Awardee, Dr. KK Aggarwal is a Senior Consultant, Physician, Cardiologist at Delhi based Moolchand Medcity; President Heart Care Foundation of India; Chairman Ethical Committee Delhi Medical Council and has served as the Research and Academic Wing Heads of National Indian Medical Association.