By Dr. Faisal Saeed
A man goes to the doctor with an ailment. The doctor cures this ailment and asks to be paid. The man refuses to pay, saying that by virtue of having become a doctor, doctors have special moral obligations to patients and the society and asking for payment for his services brings into question his humanity, his morals and the oath to honor the profession. He goes on to caution that such demands would ruin the faith of the public in the profession and portray doctors as being inconsiderate and materialistic.
It is unfortunate that the current strike by doctors is viewed in such a perspective that a strike is incompatible with the medical profession. It is disappointing that the Human Rights Commission denounced the strike by suggesting that doctors were trying to hold to ransom the rights of patients for material gain, when it wasn't so. The strike was limited in that doctors attended emergencies and care was provided for inpatients. As advocates of human rights the commission should rather question why policy makers allow unnecessary suffering of patients by improper allocation of healthcare resources.
While it is true that doctors have special obligations to his patients and society, a person who chooses to become a doctor does not make any declaration, implicit or explicit, that he/she will abstain from trying to make his/her life as fulfilling as possible and like any other individual they too have the right to pursue happiness. The actions of doctors should be judged by the same standards as those used for other professionals. When the Civil Service Commission fails to provide a just payment for their services, it is unfair to suggest that doctors should work under any circumstance. Several doctors, while employed full time as professionals, have been denied the professional allowance and exploited due to the Commission's refusal to review its rules.
If doctors have special obligations, they can demand special benefits and go on strike, as long as the demands are reasonable and it does not undermine patient care. The provision of healthcare is a joint responsibility of the government, hospitals and doctors and each element should support the other.