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Doctor-patient relationship marked by fear and distrust

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

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.


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I can understand that doctors do not want to deal with an annoyingpatient or family member, however one's health is of absoluteimportance. I am currently dealing with many medical negligence casesthat have negatively affected a patient's life. Where does one draw theline when it comes to asking questions about his or her health? Is theresuch thing as a stupid question to ask the doctor? While I do not agreewith attacking a doctor (as the article above states) for what youbelieve to be an injustice ( I believe that is for the Courts todecide), I do feel that every doctor has an immense responsibility withregards 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 orher any question that you may have regarding your health. Asking morequestions will lead to a stronger, trustful, and long lastingrelationship with your medical provider. Perhaps this is something forthe doctors to think about. Also, to be fair, the doctor does not havean 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 daughteris going to pass away in 3 months. Imagine seeing the tears of sadnesson a daily basis. This is one profession that many of us cannot proclaimto understand. Still, this is the profession they chose and they shouldhave known the baggage that comes with it. In summary, ask as manyquestions that will make you feel comfortable to go forward with yourmedical needs. Soon, you will feel less inclined to ask so manyquestions because perhaps you will realize that you can trust yourdoctor.


13 December 2012 14:13jump to comments