White Coat, Stained red

(Olga Guryanova: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Aramva Bikram Adhikari, a 3rd year medical student at Maharajgunj Medical Campus Institute of Medicine, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The day of 8th August, 2020 seemed to be slithering along like what was now a normal Saturday of the COVID-19 lockdown in the peace-loving country of Nepal. A cup of coffee straight out of bed at 12pm? Check. Government COVID-19 update at 4pm? Check. A news bulletin of some doctor getting pounded on by a flock of folks of the patient he spent every ounce of his diligence and medical expertise trying to save, just because they felt he was negligent and should’ve instead listened to their advice born out of the minutes and minutes they spent scrolling online? BIG check of course, who you’re kidding? I remember the days when the then sporadic news of violence against medical personnel produced impromptu banter from colleagues claiming the need for self-defense course to be appended to the undergrad medical curriculum. Things couldn’t be more tragic if it tried, when the amusement we reaped from the harmless joke slowly traversed the fiction-reality divide and now they seem more like a requisite than some far-fetched idea. So appalling is the situation we find ourselves in that you’d do well to find a medical student in Nepal who has not witnessed first-hand a manhandling of their lecturers.

Now more than ever, when around the world medical staffs are being paid pocketsful of claps and bagsful of appreciations (which is, as tragic if not more, when they should be receiving actual commodities they can pay their bills with), the public perception of doctors and nurses in Nepal seems to be hitting reverse quicker than a politician’s tongue when scrutinized for their false promises. Time and time again protests seem to gain eminence and then get extinguished faster than the hopes that health workers will someday get the safety they deserve. At a time when the backs of many political camels are getting broken around the globe, the last straw is fast approaching the medical fraternity. The profession once considered noble couldn’t be further away at the moment. Slip-ups may well be rubber stamped in the 46 chromosomes of a human, but in the future I would appreciate not being petrified of getting stomped on every time I attempt to save a life.

What is the solution then? Much like my sentiments so far, there has been waffling aplenty with no answers in sight. Marches and demonstrations have so far fallen on deaf ears. We might as well blame the public but how long we can wait for the whole country to be enlightened so that a healer can heal without fear is another concern altogether. Have we reached the stage when we start contemplating self-defense measures akin to the PPEs for the other virus threatening to liquidate the medical system? Medicine has held its own in shielding the rest of the humankind from the invisible enemy. It’s about time her sons and daughters are given, above all, the protection they deserve. May the divine white coat be never stained red!

About the author

Aramva Bikram Adhikari is a 3rd year medical student at Maharajgunj Medical Campus Institute of Medicine, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is an active member of Nepal Medical Students’ Society (NMSS), the National Medical Organization under IFMSA. Holding an avid interest in public health and medical education, he believes that medical students have a far greater responsibility to their community than they realize and must at all times strive to work for the betterment of the society however tiny the impact may be.

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