The parents of the young boy allegedly took their son to a different hospital after doctors denied their demand.

 Bluru couple demand to do surgery on son after watching YouTube video docs refuse
news Medicine Sunday, December 23, 2018 - 12:11

A young couple entered a Bengaluru hospital with their son who required a delicate procedure. But they weren’t looking for a doctor. Rather, they kept insisting that they had done this earlier themselves, but this time wanted a nurse to be around.

The couple had allegedly watched an online video, which chronicled how to go about the procedure, and stated that they did not want any doctors to intervene. “They brought their son in and said that they didn’t want us to do anything but provide the set-up. They said they’d seen an instructional video and that they wanted to undertake the procedure themselves along with a nurse,” said Dr Rohit*, who oversaw the patient.

The incident highlights an alarming trend of patients using the internet and YouTube videos to self-diagnose and attempt to perform often complicated medical procedures themselves -- a decision that can have life-threatening implications.

When the hospital refused to comply with the bizarre request, the couple then took their son elsewhere, against the advice of doctors. “The procedure wasn’t life-threatening per se, but it was definitely something that required attention,” added the doctor calling it a "semi-urgent” one.

The doctor asked TNM not to publish the name of the procedure as it could lead to identification and shaming of the couple. Rather, he shared the story in order to educate the public on the dangers of attempting to perform medical procedures themselves.

In another case in July, a 28-year-old woman from Tirupur died due to childbirth-related complications after she and her husband allegedly attempted to perform a live delivery at home after watching YouTube videos. Reports stated that the couple had watched several home birth videos online and the family did not take the woman to the hospital, opting to carry out the procedure at home instead. The couple was reportedly guided by friends of theirs who did not believe in modern medicine.

“People really need to understand that doctors are trained to take up these operations. We know of the possible complications that can arise for a particular individual and what needs to be done in case of any such emergencies,” states Dr Swathi, a general physician from Chennai. “People should not follow videos as some instructional manual.”

‘Googling’ symptoms and online tutorials

In addition to watching online video tutorials, there are several people who take to the internet to look up symptoms they may be experiencing. So many people flock to doctors after self-diagnosing through the internet -- so much so that it has become a bit of a tired joke among medical professionals.

Dr Adith C, a urologist from Chennai, tells TNM how frustrating it can be to educate patients on the misleading nature of online diagnosis. “What happens is that half the time we get people who look up simple terms and end up getting confused. Then it becomes a bit frustrating to make them accept that as a doctor I know what I am telling them.”

Doctors have also found that patients googling symptoms can come up with results that are completely incorrect. “I once had a parent tell me that their child had chickenpox. They’d looked it up online and had found several images to compare to the marks on the child. When I examined the child though, that was far from the case,” said Dr K Rakesh, a pediatrician from Chennai.

“Several parents bring in their child and directly state ‘I think my child has cancer,’ after having looked up a few symptoms online. It’s not just one or two people, but several,” he added.

Dr P Kirtana, a physician from Chennai, explains how doctors are trained to see several outcomes of any particular situation, which is something that only comes with experience. “So many people who go online and find information, read only a very specific aspect of it and end up being convinced of their diagnosis. As doctors, we are trained for years, extensively, to diagnose an issue and then to see the different ways that any particular diagnosis can pan out. That amount of knowledge cannot be replaced.”

But fortunately, there are patients who are willing to listen to medical professionals even after jumping to their own conclusions. “While it does get vexing at times, I’ve found that most of them respond well when we sit them down and explain what the actual issue is and why they shouldn’t be relying purely on the internet for such info,” Dr Rakesh said.

Name changed on request*

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