It is the state’s responsibility to protect gatekeepers of human health

Recent years have seen a worrying trend of attacks on doctors by aggrieved relatives of patients
It is the state’s responsibility to protect gatekeepers of human health
It is the state’s responsibility to protect gatekeepers of human health
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By Dr Edmond Fernandes

The healthcare profession has been undergoing transition in many aspects. But the aspect of giving security to those who provide health security has been long neglected. The recent years have been seeing an upward trend of attacks on doctors and healthcare establishments throughout India and in some developing nations. Adequate protection must be provided to gatekeepers of human health and dignity and policy makers should be motivated in this regard.

Doctors are not Gods - they can only attempt to alleviate pain, and protect life in-spite of all the possible advantages modern medicine can offer. They deserve to be protected at all costs, and much of the responsibility in this regard lies on the state. Private hospitals are witnessing intolerant relatives of patients beating up doctors and nurses because their near and dear ones could not be saved. 

In a incident in Uttar Pradesh in North India, a doctor was thrashed for the ambulance not arriving on time. Expectations of patients for better treatment have soared with increasing technological advances but on the flip side, instances of violence are also on the rise when despite the use of these advanced techniques and best efforts of the physicians, it is not always possible to save the life of a patient.

A good outcome cannot be assured always, nevertheless every doctor strives to do the best within his limitations. 

It is about time the state gives serious attention to this growing problem. Doctors enter the profession to give their best, their suffering is intense, the years of training, often challenging and long. The fact that doctors are money-minded is not entirely true and cannot even be generalized. Most of them do good work and many among them are also socially conscious. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross in 2012 and 2013 identified 1809 incidents of violence against health workers, patients, ambulances and medical facilities in 23 countries, most of which are conflict prone. It should leave us guessing as to how many such violent incidences occur in nations that are not necessarily conflict prone but sufficiently intolerant with no proper data to back such observations.

When aggrieved relatives of certain patients who have not received proper treatment or have suffered due to the hospital’s negligence, attack health workers and hospitals, medical care for other patients is obviously compromised, trained professionals flee the spot and doctors are unable to do their best.

Placing security guards in emergency rooms should be made mandatory at every healthcare centre that has a history of intolerant patients in their midst and the District Administration should grant permission for the same. While reasonable attention is now focused on protecting health workers in conflict zones as per the Geneva Convention, the safety of health workers in intolerant democracies needs to be re-examined.

Doctors’ getting beaten up isn’t a problem afflicting India alone but even China faces rising violence against medical practitioners. However complex this problem may be, the time has arrived to protect the gatekeepers of human health, failing which a time will come when patients will refuse to visit doctors and doctors will refuse to see patients. 

The author is a Medical Doctor and Public Health Advocate associated with several International organizations. He can be reached at or

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