Little Girl and the Hippocratic Oath
by Vaman Acharya
(Bengaluru, Karntaka, India)
It was 5 p.m. Twelve year old girl Suneeta was lying on the bed unable to bear the uneasiness due to high temperature. Her grandma was looking after her. Suneeta’s mom was a working woman and dad was an officer in the bank. Both were out of station and were expected to return on the following day.
Suneeta had requested her grandma to call her classmate Sujata, who was residing just fourth house of the same lane. Grandma went there and returned with Sujata.
"What happened to you Suneeta?” asked Sujata.
“I'm having fever with high temperature. Please call a doctor for check up.”
“Okay. Do not worry. I am here to take care of you,” said Sujata
She immediately walked to a nearby clinic and requested the doctor to see her friend Suneeta. Since there were no patients in the clinic, the doctor agreed to visit the patient’s house. He told the compounder to manage the clinic for half an hour. Sujata took the medical kit and followed the doctor. They reached Suneetha's house within five minutes. The doctor was expected to start check up seeing the condition of the patient. But he was in no mood to examine her health.
Sujata was repeatedly asked doctor to examine the patient.
The Doctor without taking out thermometer or stethoscope from the medical kit, he was more interested to give a brief lecture about his past experience at UK.
He said, “When I was in London for my post graduation in Paediatrics, I used to tell my Indian colleagues to lead simple life. One of my friends was extravagant and spent money for wasteful purposes. His rich Indian parents were sending money without making due enquiry. My parents were also in a good financial position to meet my requirements. But I never asked them to send money. I was leading a very simple life there. I used to spend money very cautiously within my scholarship amount. I did not ask my parents even once to send money during my two years stay there. My doctor friends used to joke at me as Mahatma Gandhi for my simple living and high thinking.”
He was aware that there were only two listeners Sujata and the old lady.
Sujata could not tolerate the doctor’s unexpected behavior.
“Doctor, will you please stop your nonsense talk and attend to the patient, who is very serious. It appears that you have totally forgotten the Hippocratic Oath taken at the time of receiving your medical degree. I would like to remind you the main covenant which reads, ‘In every house where I come, I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from international ill doing.’ What are you doing now? I request you to start check up at least now." Sujata requested with great disappointment.
The doctor was surprised to hear the words from a little girl. He became ashamed and realized his mistake.
“I'm extremely sorry. I will tell you the reason behind my behaviour. You need not worry. I will thoroughly check up the patient and I will not move from here till she gets complete relief.”
Soon, he took the thermometer and recorded Suneetha's temperature. The temperature was high. He gave two types of antibiotic tablets readily available with him and advised the dosage. First dose was given immediately. Suneeta was showing good response within half an hour.
He apologized to Sujata for ignoring the spirit behind the Hippocratic Oath. While leaving, the doctor told the patient will be normal within one hour. "If the temperature does not come down, I'll come again and see her." He added while leaving.
The doctor, just out of curiosity, decided to ask Sujata about her knowledge of Hippocratic Oath.
She replied, “I have seen the poster on ‘Hippocratic Oath’ prominently displayed in your clinic. You took about ten minutes to get ready. During that time I have read entire matter and noted down in my notebook.”
“Sujata, you did a nice job by alerting me from going against the medical ethics.”
“Doctor, instead of medical check up; you have started narrating your past experience. Who asked you to narrate your past experience?”
“Sujata, before coming to you there was one child patient in my clinic. Her mom and dad were accompanied with the patient. The patient’s dad was talkative and moving here and there in the clinic. His attention was drawn towards a portrait of a smiling baby. He came to me and told me his past experience. The small baby prompted him to recollect his past experience.
About five years back, he and his wife had a bitter experience to save their small baby girl. When he was narrating, I thought, it was not good on my part to stop him. He said the same baby is grown up and now undergoing treatment with you. I had an impression that by narrating past experience at the time of treatment would ease the tension of the doctor. When all the patients left, suddenly I too had recollected my past experience. My mind was working towards that direction. The same moment, you came.”
By then, Suneeta got up and there was a good response in her condition. She was again checked up and the temperature was normal.
Sujata expressed sorry to the doctor for her rude approach.
“Sujata, I have not taken your outburst seriously. You were perfectly right to protest. You deserve full appreciation.”
“Thank you very much doctor. Sir, let me know your fee for medical check up.”
“Sujata, you need not pay anything. Here I have learnt a lesson from a little girl.”
He was none other than a famous paediatrician of the town Dr. Vaibhav Kumar.