The Informed Choice

October 21, 2017
Zara Maqbool

By: Zara Maqbool

Last week I took my 10 years old to Shifa Hospital Islamabad to consult with a gastroenterologist.  He had been suffering from some vomiting and stomach issues.  I normally take reference from some trusted source when consulting with a doctor I don’t know about but this time checking his credentials I took the appointment.

The professor after checking him for literally five minutes and hardly asking anything advised an ultrasound. I asked him why he suggested that and he casually responded, ‘to be on the safe side.’ He had no idea how those casually thrown words affected me making me imagine all kinds of things.

By the grace of God the scan was clear and then he prescribed two different medicines for almost two months and around 40mg each. When I questioned him on that he seemed a little taken aback and said, ‘daine mein koi harj nahin.” I later realized that the ultrasound was advised without any reason also.

I went to almost all the big medical stores in the city and was unable to find the medicines. I then call the doctor again and his PA informs me that it’s only available at a particular store in I8 sector. That’s when the warning bell rang in my mind.

Being one of those people who question everything and believe in a second opinion if the first opinion doesn’t sit well with me. I discussed this with a family doctor who was shocked at the dosage and the duration that was prescribed. I also came to know by a fellow doctor from the same hospital that this gastroenterologist has shares with the particular medical brand company.

To say that I feel angry would be an understatement. The callousness of this messiah who can so casually give so much medicine to a ten year old child without batting an eye is beyond my comprehension. I mean I am lucky to be an educated mother who will cross check everything and not just start giving the medicine without understanding why it is being given. But what about so many people who do not question and will end up following the doctors order without any doubt. Unfortunately the consequences of malpractice are not much of a threat in Pakistan and medicines are handed out like candies in a fair.

Many doctors have since a long time argued that they don’t receive payments from pharmaceutical companies or that there is any relationship between how they prescribe drugs and the medical companies they have partnered with.

Research proves otherwise and it’s confirmed that many doctors receive payments from the medical industry and they do indeed prescribe drugs differently. It’s a fact that they get more money for the brand-name medications they prescribe.

This issue is not limited to Pakistan only but its up to the patients to be more aware about what they are using. Most people don’t question and they have blind faith in the doctor’s expertise and intention. But isn’t it important to question? To be more aware?

Mehnaz Nadeem says, “I always question. At times the doctor is a little bit offended but then it’s a parent’s prerogative to know exactly what is going on.”

What really baffles me is the kind of answers you get when you question the doctors. Most of them have an attitude of ‘please don’t waste my time as time is money’. There is disregard of satisfying the patient or his caretaker with a highhanded attitude of knows it all. Yes the doctor knows it all but its important to educate the patient too. How often have we come across doctors who spend some time in explaining which drugs are being given and why?

Its very important to empower individuals to feel confident enough to ask what is being advised to discourage the doctors from playing with our ignorance. We have to learn how to make an informed choice and not just swallow the information without chewing it.