UAE | Health

Doctor-patient relationship marked by fear and distrust

Special bond fast eroding with both sides looking at each other with suspicion

  • By Anjana Sankar, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 19:52 December 12, 2012

  • Image Credit: Getty Images/Design Pics RF
  • A matter of distrust: Doctors say they are working in hostile environments where doctors don’t trust patients and patients don’t trust doctors

Dubai: The doctor-patient relationship in the UAE is at the crossroads with medical practitioners often having to deal with belligerent patients and their relatives, doctors have told XPRESS.

Several doctors said that they are forced to work in hostile environments. “It is a sad fact in the UAE that most patients don’t trust their doctors. And we do not trust them (patients) either,” said Dr Osama Jaber, a Urologist in Dubai.

Dr Jaber’s candid admission is echoed by many in their fraternity who were shocked at the gruesome murder Dr Rajan Daniel in Abu Dhabi by a patient in November. Pakistani expatriate Mohammad Abdul Jameel barged into the urologist’s room and slit his throat with a knife. The killer later committed suicide while in police custody.

Just two weeks after this incident, a doctor at Al Qasimi Hospital filed a police complaint against the father of a five-year-old he was treating. Dr. Khalid Khalfan Bin Sabt, a paediatric surgeon accused the Emirati father of abusing and insulting him as well as threatening to beat him up in front of other patients and hospital staff.

Just last week, an Emirati attacked the chief anesthetist at Ras Al Khaimah Saqr hospital with a stick following his ageing sister’s death. The man had requested to transfer his sister to an Abu Dhabi hospital but the doctor refused as she was unfit to travel.

Dr. Jaber said he has never seen such aggressive behaviour by patients during his 17 years of service in Germany and other European countries. “I have had instances where patients will call you at three or four in the morning and start arguing. Even after you explain the pros and cons of an operation, patients or their relatives will accuse, argue and threaten the doctor,” said Dr. Jaber.

“One thing I have learned here is to practice safe medicine. There is no miracle cure for sexual problems. When you are at risk of being attacked by your patients, you do not want to experiment or take risk,” said Dr Jaber, alluding to the case of Abdul Jameel who was suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Legal threats

A dental surgeon based in Sharjah said on condition of anonymity that they have to deal with legal threats hanging over doctors’ heads. “While government bodies are taking steps to protect rights of patients, no one is talking about rights of doctors. A patient can sue the doctor for medical negligence. But what can we do to safeguard ourselves from threats and abuses from patients and their relatives?”

Gynaecologists, dentists, derm-atologists and general practitioners said they were not spared from rude behaviour by their patients.

“I have a tough time convincing some husbands that their wives should undergo a caesarian to deliver the baby. Once a patient’s husband and their family started screaming at me when I said I have to do a caesarian on the woman. It is so embarrassing and demeaning for a doctor,” said a Sharjah-based gynaecologist who requested anonymity.

Many doctors say patients have become demanding and want instant results.

“Almost 80 per cent of patients go ‘doctor shopping’ after taking two or three consultations. They don’t have the patience to wait till a month or two to see the results. When you know that they are going to hop to the next doctor within a week, there is no time to build the trust factor,” said a dermatologist who declined to be named.

Comments (19)

Your comments
  1. Added 13:59 December 13, 2012

    I can understand that doctors do not want to deal with an annoying patient or family member, however one's health is of absolute importance. I am currently dealing with many medical negligence cases that have negatively affected a patient's life. Where does one draw the line when it comes to asking questions about his or her health? Is there such thing as a stupid question to ask the doctor? While I do not agree with attacking a doctor (as the article above states) for what you believe to be an injustice ( I believe that is for the Courts to decide), I do feel that every doctor has an immense responsibility with regards to a patient's health. Do not be afraid to ask questions! You (as the patient) should feel comfortable with your doctor to ask him or her any question that you may have regarding your health. Asking more questions will lead to a stronger, trustful, and long lasting relationship with your medical provider. Perhaps this is something for the doctors to think about. Also, to be fair, the doctor does not have an easy job. It can be extremely stressful and difficult at times. Imagine having to tell a the mother of a 4 year girl that her daughter is going to pass away in 3 months. Imagine seeing the tears of sadness on a daily basis. This is one profession that many of us cannot proclaim to understand. Still, this is the profession they chose and they should have known the baggage that comes with it. In summary, ask as many questions that will make you feel comfortable to go forward with your medical needs. Soon, you will feel less inclined to ask so many questions because perhaps you will realize that you can trust your doctor.

    CompensateME, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 13:21 December 13, 2012

    With what happened to my wife, I am now traumatized about trusting doctors. My wife was diagnosed with gastritis by one famous hospital here and when we went to another hospital for a second opinion after a day since she was still having severe pain, we were told that the problem in her appendix and that it was so serious that it needed to be removed as soon as possible. Good that she was treated immediately or else I could have not imagined what would have had happened to her!

    anynomous, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:13 December 13, 2012

    This is so true, and the cause for this is due to the system that is prevalent in the medical world. Doctors rarely have independent practices here and need to be employed with hospitals and the hospital management tries to maximize profits and push doctors to squeeze in more wherever possible. Insurance set up also questions doctors for every decision made, and the law being so strict forces doctors to be very apprehensive when handling emergency situations, because if something goes wrong immediately the blame culture follows along with harsh actions. So doctors are invariably under stress due to the above factors. Patients on the other hand read various reports of people being affected due to some doctors' negligence and this forces patients to see all doctors with same yardsticks. hence the trust is lost... The best option is to pay doctors to keep patients healthy and whenever patients are sick doctors salary will be cut. Doctors are living a very contradictory life. They are supposed to cure people, but if they cure all the people, then what will happen to them? If a society is completely healthy, and nobody is sick, the doctors will start getting sick, starve and die. They will become beggars. It was only in China, under Lao Tzu&rsquo's influence, that for the first time a new method was introduced. It was out of Lao Tzu&rsquo's compassion that he went to the emperor and said, "The whole medical profession is basically wrong, because the doctor lives on the diseases of the people, and he is supposed to cure them. You are putting the man in a contradictory position." The emperor asked: "What do you suggest?" He said: "I suggest that the doctor should be paid by the emperor for keeping people healthy. When people feel they are losing their health, they become sick, the doctor's money has to be cut. He is not taking care of the people then. Just the opposite of our current scenario: he will be paid to keep people healthy and if somebody falls sick, his pay will be cut. That will bring to the whole medical profession a totally different perspective. And that's how enlightened people have been giving new perspectives to people, which the people don't understand in the beginning. People would not understand that you have to pay for health. Health is yours, what has the doctor to do with it? And the doctor has to lose money if you fall sick? That was absolutely right, though it looked strange.

    Vijay, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 10:26 December 13, 2012

    It's strange that doctors are not accepting their negligence and mistakes. I personally suffered a lot of negligence and mishandling from doctors... patients are not rats & mice over which someone should do experiments... and anyone who did not like this profession should leave the profession.... STOP EXPERIMENTING...

    Zia, dxb, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 10:14 December 13, 2012

    Sharing Trust and respect is the initial base of dealing between doctors and patients,once this is lost,there cannot be a continuation of such a relation. Now,as i have noticed and learnrd in my practice,its not only the patients who are having bad opinion about some doctors ,but it is vice versa with the doctors having concerns against some patients. One person is capable of spoiling the whole equation. Patients should be aware of a very important thing,and that is,we,doctors,we are only humans like all others,we do our best,and it is a big responsibility toward our patients,of which i dont thionk that some of us are ignoring. But at the same time ,they should also be aware of the fact that,we are not the cause of their disease or problem,we only help for the best of our knowledge and experience,of which we are aware of its seriousity,taking into consideration the suffering of our patients. I like the idea of what Dr.Jaber brought up that,in many cases,patients may report or sue us, but if the mistake or violence is from the patients or relative sides,then who can we complain to. Lets hope for the best,that both parties would understand each others and appreciate the efforts taken,hospitals and clinics should emphasize on the rights and obligations of both parties by advertising in a more clear and detailed manner,whether by multiple boards hanging on walls, and/or even by distributing small booklets that explain clearly these facts. I really hope that such an incidences would not take place again.

    Hisham A.H., Dubai, Lebanon

  6. Added 10:10 December 13, 2012

    Its a business now days between Hospitals , Insurance Companies and Medicine companies so most of the doctors are selling medicines to promote some brands. Just remember if a doctor is making good money in his home country why will he come to a foreign land (UAE)? Any good doctor making good money in his homeland is already having a lifestyle similar to that in Dubai or the US.

    ahmed, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 10:06 December 13, 2012

    The owners or managers should not treat patients as Gods just for the sake of earning money. They should think it is not the doctors who are always wrong. Sometimes patients isare also not right. Most of the time patient don't understand or act smart. There shoud be very strong laws for people who misbehave with doctors. Similarly, patients should have the right to sue the doctor if they are not treated well with care.

    A Doctor, Abu Dhabi, India

  8. Added 10:02 December 13, 2012

    Actually, it should be that way for the patient and they must shop around as in Western countries it is the OTHER way round. Doctors are heavily protected and there are many cases of medical negligence, patients die from routine procedure and nothing happens. Patients do need to question everything as it is their lives at stake. In Western countries most doctors just want your money and don't care what happens as they are protected due to strict privacy laws. Also the older you are, the worse the care. Also it is part and parcel of being a doctor, if you genuinely care about the patient they can sense it. Nobody is stupid these days.

    Dea, St Ives, Australia

  9. Added 09:54 December 13, 2012

    If doctors here just stop thinking of patients as pay-cheques and treat them as humans who suffer from pain, then you will get all the respect in the world. Thanks Best regards, saeed

    saaed, abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 09:49 December 13, 2012

    I totally agree with the above points. While I was working back in UAE as a doctor, I have encountered the above problems so many times. people there don't want to wait. they need instant results. they will not accept side effects/complications which are clearly given in standard text books. they will accuse the doctor for everything which is not in doctor's hands. But the same patient, when he goes to other country for treatment, will keep quite and accept the facts. in UAE govt has given more rights for patients without educating them that they have to bahave in a responsible manner. this will definitely degrade the quality of treatment. I know a few well known/highly skilled surgeons practising defensive medicine. they will tell the patients to go to their own country for some operations even though they are experts in that surgery. they don't want to take risk. This will ultimately affect the healthcare of the patients.

    kumar, chennai, United Arab Emirates

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