Almost 3 months ago, I posted an article about a suicide attempt near my office. That post had a happy ending in that the man did not die. A visitor to this blog, Sarah, commented that she was "glad it didn't have a gruesome ending...". I replied by asking, "When someone is bent on taking his own life, can we really stop him from doing so?"
Well, the poor chap was reportedly sent to the mental hospital but was eventually discharged after a couple of weeks. Not long after that, he was found dead at home. He finally achieved what he set out to do by hanging himself.
But I don't want to dwell on his story—I'm done living through that afternoon. At least one person had told me that she was hopelessly unable to control herself from laughing so hard until she had tears in her eyes when reading my article. I admit that I wrote the article in an amusing way, but I didn't expect that some people found it that funny!
What I really want to say here now is that during the drama, when several hands stuck out of the window to grab the man, it was later revealed that a pair of hands were actually those of a driver who worked in a nearby building. He had no business to be there for the rescue, but he was there anyway, trying to help. There was a short mention of him in the papers the next day.
But one has to wonder what would have happened if they had failed to save the man that day. I suspect it would have been possible that the busy body might have been blamed even. He's not trained for rescue work, yet he tried to be smart! Fortunately, however, the man was saved, and the good samaritan received a pat on his back.
A couple of days ago, I was running together with Dr Peter in Likas Park, and we got to talk about professional responsibility. He told me that the standard of care expected of doctors is very high. That is of course not surprising considering that they're dealing with human lives. A careless mistake can result in the loss of life.
After I reached home that evening, I started thinking about life being a doctor. It is difficult for me to imagine, of course, but I was trying to picture myself seeing a dying man in the street—how would I react?
I think long before becoming a doctor, I would have made up my mind that I wanted to help sick people. There has to be a passion to save lives. In many cases, doctors end up becoming rich people too, but I'm inclined to think that rich or poor, the priority is always about saving lives; that the money comes as a side-effect of being a doctor. Therefore, if I were a doctor, upon seeing a dying man in the street, my first reaction should reasonably be to act within the best of my knowledge and ability to save his life. As to whether that man can afford my fees or not, that is a secondary matter.
Nevertheless, in reality I have the feeling that most, but hopefully not all, doctors these days would refrain from doing all that they can to save the life of the dying man. And we ask ourselves, why? Are they not trained to save lives? Are they not morally and ethically obliged to save lives?
We have come a very long way from the original spirit of those people bestowed with the gift of the healing hands. It is unfortunate that the law had also come a very long way to the extent that doctors who obey their inclinations to save lives may end up getting into big trouble if things go wrong—they may get sued and found liable for huge compensations. And the effect does not end there too. Their reputation may be damaged beyond remedy, and it is possible that that can be the end of their career too!
Therefore, I think when a doctor sees a seemingly hopeless case of which success is very remote, he would rather refrain from trying to help. Instead, it's a safer bet to just direct the patient to other doctors who're willing to try their luck! And then those other doctors would also push the patient to yet other doctors.