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By Dr Shershah Syed

(Illustration by Samiah Bilal)

Doctors and patients have a life-long relationship. People need doctors when they become sick. Doctors treat them till they get better or they die, depending on the severity of the illness, complications of their ailment, or in the case of failure of treatment and intervention. In the majority of cases, patients and their families are always thankful to doctors and their medical teams.

The medical profession enjoys this unique relationship where you get paid for services and at the same time are treated like a god or goddess. After treatment, patients often like to have a long-term relationship with doctors and expect that their doctor would join them on their happy or tragic occasions. Hence, doctors and family physicians, in particular, enjoy a special and respectable status in the community. I know many doctors whose names are very popular in the community and many of their patients have named their children after these doctors.

Despite the need and necessity of doctors in the community, there have been some situations where the general public has been not too pleased with those in the medical profession, particularly doctors. These are situations when we come across news of doctors being verbally abused, becoming victims of violence, and their clinics being attacked and doctors even being tortured and killed by patients or patients’ families.

Unfortunately, during the current Covid-19 crisis, this type of situation seems to be getting worse. Patients and the public seem to have lost their traditional confidence and trust in doctors. Rumours are rife that doctors are killing patients, wrongly diagnosing Covid-19 and even selling human organs to make money.

However, this kind of a situation doesn’t happen overnight. Doctors have lost their respect and status in the community because of their own actions and deeds. They have chosen to and worked hard to destroy the respect of their profession, and their esteem, in the hearts and mind of people.

With a rise in the number of reported incidences of medical practitioners being abused and physically attacked by patients and their families, it is time for, doctors to look inward.

It happened gradually and steadily when doctors became more interested in wealth, power and fame. To achieve these goals, they compromised their professional duties, and, perhaps, did not act with sympathy and empathy when it was required of them to do so.

Some doctors became involved in taking commissions, a practice in which a doctor expects a commission after referring a patient to a surgeon or physician. There are surgeons and physicians who charge hefty fees from patients in a country where almost 50 percent of the people are living below the poverty line. Doctors also demand commission from medical stores, pathology laboratories and diagnostic centres, particularly those with CT scan and MRI facilities. That doctors stoop that low to make money is neither acceptable nor permissible.

The moral and ethical integrity of physicians has deteriorated in the last few decades. In medical colleges, professor, who work as part-time faculty, hardly have time to teach and train medical students as they are extremely busy in their private practice. Among their patients and paramedics in hospitals, they are known as butchers — for extorting high medical fees for consultations and surgeries.

We are producing technician-dependent surgeons and physicians who are guided by pharmaceutical-industry representatives who are partners in medical crime. There are enough examples of physicians who prescribe multiple types of antibiotics with different kind of vitamins and painkillers to patients. It would be very embarrassing for the profession to reproduce these prescriptions here. These prescriptions of multiple drug therapy have no scientific basis, nor pharmacological justification, and doctors, who make such prescription are nothing but glorified quacks with postgraduate diplomas and appointments as faculty members at public or private medical colleges. They are only prescribing unnecessary medicines for the benefit of some unethical pharmaceutical corporate agendas.

In a system where people think that the more medicine a doctor prescribes, the better he is, the ignorance and illiteracy of the public remains a blessing for this kind of clinical practice. In fact, this is worse than quackery, as quacks at least are not expensive and they spend time to talk to patients kindly and answer every query patiently, whereas these doctors have no time for patients’ questions.

In many hospitals, renowned surgeons cannot operate as they have no skills and neither do they know how to deal with complications in surgical procedures. Behind the flashy glass walls of the operation theatre, they have experienced operation-theatre technicians in their team to perform surgeries on their behalf. At some stage, when patients learn about this, they lose their confidence and trust for these surgeons and hospitals, and it is definitely a violation of trust.

Many doctors own hospitals built on amenity plots given by the government on extremely cheap rates. The majority of these hospitals are ruthless business centres, charging enormous amounts of fees and providing substandard services. Often, patients and their relatives are lied to and no internal audit system exists, simply so that unethical medical practices can be easily and smoothly carried out.

In the past few decades, many private hospital owners have established medical colleges without fulfilling the basic criteria of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and, hence, these medical colleges are producing doctors who are good for nothing. These doctors are glorified MBBS quacks, with minimal knowledge and skills. They have no ethical considerations and hence believe it is their right to make money because they have themselves paid enormous tuition fees to study at these medical colleges.

A large number of doctors do not hesitate to travel and stay in five-star hotels at the expense of pharmaceutical companies. Many pharmaceutical companies bribe doctors, on a personal basis to boost the sales of their medicine. Unfortunately, people are unable to differentiate between good, ethical doctors and bad, unethical and criminal, medical practitioners.

Many MBBS doctors have joined the civil services, politics and the electronic media as TV anchors. It’s very unfortunate that ‘qualified’ MBBS doctors are serving as members of the bureaucracy in ministries of industry, agriculture, excise, taxation, police, etc. They use the title of doctor with their name. The majority of them conduct themselves in the same manner as the average, traditional, unhelpful government official.

No doctor who has gone into politics has created a good impression by being caring of humanity. They behave in the same fashion as other politicians in the country, who serve their political masters and work against the interests of the masses. They get involved in corruption as do their non-medical counterparts. The education and training in medical colleges has failed to make them good doctors or good people, and neither has the hospital environment inculcated empathy in them. When they studied in medical colleges and worked in government hospitals, they must have had first-hand experience of the common man’s misery and the degradation of poor people. But when they decide to become politicians, they acquire attributes of lying, misconduct, nepotism, incompetence as well as a bad reputation, despite the title of doctor prefixed to their names.

As television anchors, these doctors fail to produce shows with substance. Instead they often promote ignorance, intolerance, religious fanaticism and non-scientific thinking. In media, they have the opportunity to help unfortunate patients needing a voice for their cause, but they fail to highlight the plight of dying pregnant women, the misery of poor diabetic patients who have no place in our healthcare system, or of the masses with chronic diseases who are exploited by qualified doctors and quacks. These doctor-anchors also become a part of the corrupt system of exploitation.

Recently, a doctor became a victim of the callousness of her fellow doctors. A female physician in Hyderabad died in her third pregnancy because of the failure of her obstetrician and an unhelpful healthcare system. Another competent general surgeon in Lahore died because of the callous attitude of surgeons.

Meanwhile, hundreds of doctors and health workers, on duty to save the lives of Covid-19 patients, are dying by getting infected in hospitals, but their services are not recognised.

The medical profession should review the practice of medicine and the unethical conduct of doctors. Every doctor should question his or her practice and try to understand why people have begun to hate doctors and why they have lost respect for health providers.

When PMDC and institutes, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, are least bothered about these issues, like-minded doctors must show that they will not be a part of this silent conspiracy.

(The writer is the former Secretary General of the Pakistan Medical Association)


Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric



Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers



Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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A mask of DATES…



Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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