Through this column, I would like to ask Dr Hegde a pertinent question and I do hope that he will reply to this query. A couple of weeks back, the grand-daughter of my neighbour had to visit an ophthalmologist for a routine refractory check-up. The girl has myopia and she has been wearing glasses since she was in class I. The doctor may have been in a foul mood on that day—we do not know. She scared the little girl by recounting incidents of people who have had various eye problems—which was not necessary. It took a lot of time for the girl to understand that what the doctor was saying was general and not specific to her case.
Other doctors in the past had stated that there was no problem with her eye, except myopia. Is it ethical for a doctor to talk in such a negative fashion to a child of 13-14 years when her parent is accompanying her? Wouldn’t it have been better if the doctor had used positive words to inspire confidence and give a gentle caution: “You have to take care of eyes , so please eat healthy foods rich in Vitamin A” or something like that. Don’t you think doctors have to be more careful when they communicate a message to impressionable minds?
Later, they visited another doctor who assuaged their fears and said that if taken proper precaution are taken, coupled with relaxation exercises, the vision can definitely improve. This inspired confidence in the child. But, until this second visit, the child was morose and dejected. There is a thin line between cautioning someone and scaring someone, isn’t it? This experience proved to a senior citizen like me that medical opinion has become highly subjective. So, when in doubt, do seek a second opinion! Chandraprabha Venkatagiri, by email
Prof BM Hegde replies:
I am sorry for what happened to your child. Unfortunately, we doctors have become mercenaries and, consequently, merciless. The whole edifice of modern medicine or, for that matter, any other system of healing, can (should) only be built on patient confidence in her/his doctor which is what makes medicines and surgery work. It is not just what we do. This has been now proven using highly scientific methods. That is called the placebo effect or expectation effect, as the physicists call it.
The profession has lost its sense of social responsibility. Doctors are trained to maintain the health of the public. That is exactly what we do not do. Instead of becoming placebo doctors, most of us have become ‘nocebo’ doctors, scaring our patients. What happened to your child is not only unethical but dangerous as the young mind could have developed a permanent phobia. Thank God, you found a sensible second opinion. Fear could kill!
The root of the problem is in our present educational system. Education should strive to make healthy minds and not just only wealthy careers. John Adams defined good education as a process which trains human beings to act “justly, skilfully, and magnanimously” under all circumstances of war and peace. Today’s education runs only after skill and money.
Now, here is the positive side of myopia for your grandchild’s information. All myopes are highly intelligent. One example would suffice. Late Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was a severe myope as a child. He could not see the blackboard in the class. His teacher, an Englishman, detected this in this extraordinarily intelligent child and asked his father to buy him correcting glasses. The father, whose pay was Rs13 per month, could not afford it. The teacher bought him the glasses and then there was no looking back. The brightest star on the Indian political ferment was late CR, as he was affectionately called.
Myopia gets corrected as the child grows old. She would need no glasses at all in old age for reading. There are some eye exercises for myopes to make it easier to read. She can forget her eyes as they are healthy. Myopia is NOT a disease. In our health-scare system, it becomes one.
My apologies for my colleague’s behaviour. Hope she is nice at other times. It might have been one of her bad days.
Government should also Help
Moneylife’s (25 July 2013) recent article “The Real Cost of Parenting” was very interesting and educative too. Moneylife team had taken utmost care and pains to cover almost all the expenses for raising a child till the age of 21 and concluded that the cost could be between Rs50 lakh to Rs60 lakh, considering today’s costs.
I would like to share my views on this very important aspect of the parents’ life in the process of building up a dream career of the child. As far as the higher bracket salary of the executives and the income of business class are concerned, children should be considered lucky as their ambition in life can be fulfilled. This is when the finances are strong, to meet all expenses. However, in most of the cases, both the parents have to work, to achieve the goal, with the result that the parents can pay little attention to the child and there is no way to control the child’s activities during their absence.
There are innumerable examples of the child getting spoilt by the latest gadgets like smartphones, computer games, to which they get addicted. This is bound to bring frustration to the parents, when they realise that their efforts and the money they invested in the child, does not bear fruit, but instead goes down the drain. As against this scenario, we should consider how our parents brought us up in all adverse circumstances—having more than two-three children—with minimum compromises. Should we blame the influence of Western culture and the introduction of technology which has done more harm than good when it is improperly used? It brings abuse and disrepute to technological innovations. It is, however, required to keep pace with the global economy.
Finally, “The Real Cost of Parenting” to raise a child only considers bringing up normal children. But, there are thousands of unfortunate children with learning disorders and disabilities. How will parents of these children manage? Counselling, medical expenses and the like will eat away most of their time and money. It is desirable that, in such cases, the government (both state and Central) give its helping hand to such children to bring to light the children’s talent and potential.
Ramesh Kapadia, by email
I find valuable information on investment through Moneylife. The article, “India Post Banks, the Game Changer” by Sucheta Dalal, is very laudable. Being an officer in department of posts, I feel the lobby of banks, with the help of finance ministry, may block the entry of India Post from entering into the banking sector. The finance secretary has already started giving negative views on India Post in press briefings.
Prem Singh, by email
Open to More Frauds?
This is with regard to “Number of bank fraud cases down but amount involved zooms 324%.” Now that it is established that 65% are technology-driven frauds, what concrete steps are being taken to mitigate them rather than go the whole hog into a ‘cheque-less banking’ regime which is open to more frauds?
Pressure on Staff
This is with regard to “Relationship managers: tread with caution” by Saiyid Zaidi. Huge target pressure and temptation of lucrative incentive to front-office staff in banks is leading to mis-selling of third-party products, namely, insurance and mutual funds. Immediate upfront profit for banks also encourages banks to exert pressure on staff members to sell. This problem can be solved only if banks are barred from selling of third-party products.
Return to Normalcy
This is with regard to “Fear and Loathing in Risk Street” by Debashis Basu & Aditya Govindaraj. I think that this market for equities will go up and down (yo-yo style) every week and will return to normalcy, once the general elections are over. Even then, the situation will stabilise only when there is a majority rule and not a government with several parties forming a coalition.
The rupee can be stable only when we learn to control imports of cheap electronic goods from China; stop reckless imports of gold and push up our exports. Export or perish—which is what Jawaharlal Nehru called for years ago—has become imperative now.
Dr Anantha K Ramdas
Half the Principal Amount is Lost
This is with regard to “HDFC Life child plan sold to senior citizen erodes 96% of investment amount!” by Raj Pradhan. My widow sister-in-law can be added to the list of victims and with the same institution! She was falsely coaxed into buying a ULIP scheme, investing her last income that came after her husband’s demise. She has lost half of the principal amount that she invested.
This is with regard to “The real cost of parenting: Here are the survey results” by Sucheta Dalal and Raj Pradhan. I have a three-year-old child and it seems like this is our story! Unique survey!
Nupur Pavan Bang
Fake Returns or Freebies
This is with regard to “Bharti AXA Life: Senior citizen sold policy with lure of rent from Airtel tower?” by Raj Pradhan. None of the individual agents are involved in this case. This is done by corporate agents, who get huge commission on bringing a bulk amount of premium for the company, which ranges from 50% to 80% of the first premium. They are interested in defrauding gullible people by assuring them of fake returns or freebies.