The One Doctor You Don’t Want!

At the outset, apologies to all doctors named “Michael Pinto”.

I am not sure how embellished this story is, but I did hear it from the horse’s mouth. A doctor friend of mine told me about an 82-years old patient of his, who had suddenly become drowsy and had to be admitted to a local nursing home. He needed to be investigated and shifted to a larger hospital under a senior consultant. The patient was being looked after by some relatives, who themselves were old. They were unwilling to do much for him, given that it looked as if he wasn’t going to survive much longer…my doctor friend was a little upset, because there are many transient (temporary) causes of drowsiness that can be cured…the relatives were just not keen on doing anything.

My friend gave them the names of a few senior physicians to choose from and then asked them to call him back. A few hours later, he got a call from one of the relatives, who told him that they had spoken to Dr. Michael Pinto. My friend doesn’t know any Dr. Michael Pinto and thought the relative was mistaken and tried to correct him. The relative continued to talk of Michael Pinto and it was only a little later that my friend finally figured out that they had called Michael Pinto, the undertaker firm, to arrange to have the patient transported to his native place so that he could die there in peace. Obviously, the person at Michael Pinto refused…they only transport bodies, not live, living people!

What a tragedy! Imagine if you are old and alone and sick and the only person your relatives can think of calling…is the undertaker.

And this is not an uncommon problem!

There are many who are old and living alone. Some are lucky to have support systems…friends, cousins, neighbors or children who are able to drop everything and come to their help at short notice. Many though are not that lucky…and are totally dependent on help and other relatives…relatives who themselves may not be in a condition to help or even if they are, may not want to. And since our entire healthcare system sucks and is built upon the hope that there is always some relative or friend around to do things for the patient…when those relatives or friends or attendants are not around, things go for a big toss!

With due respect to the Coen brothers, ours too is not a country for old men (and women). Despite all the paeans we sing to “bhartiya sanskriti”, which in reality is just limited to folding hands and touching feet, our entire social system is structured to not care for our elderly and infirm. Our local transport system, our pavements and roads, our trains and even for that matter our airlines…it is not a good thing to be old and infirm and on your own in this country, especially in a city like Mumbai.

I wonder how many old people we lose, simply because there is no one to take the trouble to investigate minor ailments and nip them in the bud before they escalate. And the stupid pride that so many of the elderly have, also prevents them from reaching out in time to those who can help, when the problem could be solved in an easier manner than when the issue has become more serious.

Clearly, if it is only Michael Pinto that people can think of calling when you are sick…you might as well start saying your good-byes!

19 Comments

  • N V BHAT wrote:

    I am not sure his relatives in his native place would have liked to take care of him.

    Sad state of affairs.

    What solutions would you prescribe, Dr Jankharia?

    Niranjan Bhat

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    I don’t have solutions. He has no relatives in his native place as well. They just thought it would be a simpler place to die in.

  • Sriganesh wrote:

    Dear Bhavin
    Now I know why my mother keeps saying that she is lucky that we take care of her.

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    No one wants to fall ill even with support system in place. One hopes and prays that HE sends you up without hospitalisation

  • there is a geriatric care center being run by good friends at Vasind near Kalyan. It is called Balaji Geriatric care Centre – and is much much more than a typical old people’s home…It takes care of the diseased and disabled..Google for the address….

  • Meha Savla wrote:

    I completely understand the elderly pride. my mom too belongs to it, so when she says i am doing fine, i know she is not. last week she complained of pain in her calf, & i took her for a check, it turned out to be Cellulite. More over elders always feel why disturb young ones life, but timely action saves a huge time & money later on.

  • Norman wrote:

    What Jamna says is very true. He should send everyone up without being hospitalized.
    No not every Doctor is a crook, but when it happens right in front of you, you realize what people go through.
    A close relative is going through hell for the past couple of years. He has depleted most of his savings on such doctors. The recent one who specializes in such illness conducting another operation costing a good bit and after a week or so tells the patient that the operation failed because he has blood cancer. Now any sane doctor will never tell a patient that he has cancer till the checks are carried out. Also any patient and their relatives (near and dear ones)would get a nervous breakdown with this news.
    Anyway the person conducts all the required tests in two places to be sure and finds that he has no blood cancer whatsoever.
    The doctor advises him not to take any action against the errant one, as he says that although there is competition between doctors. They normally stick together and support one another. Besides they will not treat the person who files a complaint.
    I am not surprised at what is going on in this Country, what with raping 3 and 5 year olds, and the corruption that takes place day in and day out. We sure know where we are headed.
    As far as taking care of the elders. People who are brought up well will never leave their own, even at costs. One has to be HUMANE. Sorry to say this is lacking in our society. We are moving ahead only because of a few good souls……

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    In spite of what Norman has written the medical profession is the only noble profession with some black sheep sprinkled among the many.

  • Priyadarshan Pradhan wrote:

    excellent article.
    keep it up.

  • Only yesterday I came to know from my relative at Borivili that her elderly mother who is staying alone at Dombivili, (inspite of her son living in New Bombay, she had always been independent, her husband died about 10 years ago), that every time she goes for a routine heart check-up, the doctor admits her to an ICU for 3 to 4 days for routine tests and each time charges her Rs.35,000/- to Rs.40,000/-.

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    You are right, old people are last on the priority list of everyone in this country, be it family, relatives, local bodies, central government. It becomes very difficult for doctors who treat them. If any investigations are advised mostly they are refused saying it is old age and nothing else. As pointed out by others very often they are correctable abnormalities often with simple measures like giving some salt or correcting hypoglycemia. But once in a while you do come across a son or daughter themselves in fifties caring deeply for their old parents and that brings hope that everything is not lost.

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    In this respect I should say that my Grand paretns from both the sides, my aunts and uncles and my parents were lucky as they were never left alone till they breathed their last! Our family values and bonding are too strong to let any one alone! E.g. a young cousin of mine did not get married as she wanted to look after her ailing mother, my Masi, who was bedridden for 13 years! Now my cousin is 50+ and is all alone as both my Masi and Masa have passed away! Such are the sacrifices made in our family! Hope our children will continue with the same trend! We are positive they will!

  • aartimehta wrote:

    Sad and heartaching…

  • Ganesh Parameswaran wrote:

    The change in society is irreversible. It is now a matter of luck for each one of us. And, while we do not have the best of the West (care for old and infirm), we have the worst from them (disintegrating family ties).

  • Prabha Vinay wrote:

    A very touching article, this one..
    But TRUE for some.. which is very heartening to even think of..

  • Ajay Bhonsle wrote:

    Before I could complete reading the 2nd para,the name ‘Michael Pinto’ struck a chord. Our shipping company had used the services of this undertaker’s firm located in Byculla, to transport the mortal remains of a seafarer who had passed away on one of our ships. I was told with great pride by the person in charge there, how he had cut open many a body to embalm it before it was dispatched to any destination in the country or even overseas. He sounded so much like a doctor with intimate knowledge about anatomy that I changed my views about his profession and did not question the steep charges for the ‘package deal'(police chai pani,local transport,embalming,coffin & air freight)!!
    Regarding the plight of the sick who lack family support, I suggest Ms Sonia Gandhi also try pushing a ‘Social Security Bill’ which will also take care of medical support for all besides the much hyped ‘food security’ as an election plank for 2014. (What happened to the ‘Garibi Hatao’ campaign much publicised during the Sr. Mrs G’s time is another story)!!

  • Ullhas B Kulkarni wrote:

    Couldn’t agree more with you Bhavin. This is one of the biggest problems plaguing our country. Primarily, it is the government’s responsibility to develop adequate support systems for such people who have no support. But with such avarice-raging and conscience-dead people governing the country, it is futile to expect anything from the government. This is just a minute grain of sand in the plethora of problems plaguing the country. The plague is only spreading with new mutants causing unheard of diseases ruining the national health and well-being, thanks but no thanks to those running our country. Frankly, the voter has no choice but to choose from a stinking scum full of weird rotten homo sapiens.

    Under the circumstances, the only plausible solution appears to be that each one should make as much provision as possible for old age so that the burden on the children/younger supporters is eased to that extent. At the same time, if children take it upon themselves to do their best for their parents as long as they are alive, the problem should become manageable with this two-pronged approach. After all, we all go through life fending for ourselves and our family within our means. From personal experience I can tell you one of the most fulfilling feelings one can have in life is to to know you did your best for your parents as long as they were alive. Then you have no regrets after they are no more.

    For those who choose to be alone, it would be best to think of the future and develop a surrogate support system while they are still healthy and working. Easy to say I agree. But is there any better solution?

  • Shimpa wrote:

    Social security is the USP of the country I reside in. Free health for all – from cold & cough to knee transplant/renal transplant. That however, doesn’t translate to relatives caring for the aged- though they don’t have to spend a penny. On the contrary, every time the family wants an outing without the elderly, they hospitalise them for the weekend or week!
    It has nothing to do with facilities, and everything to do with mind sets. If only we could remember that we all will be old someday. Monkey see, monkey do – what are our children seeing us doing will come back to us. Maybe that is what we ought to remind the world.

  • Shimpa wrote:

    Social security is the USP of the country I reside in. Free health for all – from cold & cough to knee transplant/renal transplant. That however, doesn’t translate to relatives caring for the aged- though they don’t have to spend a penny. On the contrary, every time the family wants an outing without the elderly, they hospitalise them for the weekend or week!
    It has nothing to do with facilities, and everything to do with mind sets. If only we could remember that we all will be old someday. Monkey see, monkey do – what our children are seeing us doing will come back to us. Maybe that is what we ought to remind the world.

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