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By Cliff Samuel
Sometimes, patients are incapacitated for life and at other times even have to pay with their lives. Much of it goes unreported since most deaths occur some time after the patient has been under the treatment of the quack and especially if he dies at home. Only if it is a glaring instance of foul play, where a seriously ill patient dies almost immediately after the administration of some drug at the clinic, that people begin to cast aspersions on the credibility of the “Doctor”. And that is when the so called doctor if he happens to be a quack, panics and usually spills the beans especially when up against police pressure to speak the truth.

While a vast majority of our doctors can’t resist the lure of lucre and seek greener pastures of practice overseas or in towns and cities here in India, the rural folk are left to choose from many such pretenders. These men know virtually nothing about medical science or for that matter about human anatomy and physiology. They have usually been old fashioned “Compounders” who had worked with some doctor or the other, or for that matter, aspiring students of medicine, or even dropouts of medical colleges. Some of them have pursued short–term correspondence courses in some alternative system of medicine or the other offered by universities that are not even recognized and start practicing, when they prescribe even allopathic drugs to unsuspecting patients who approach them like the proverbial lamb being led to the slaughter!

These quacks, however, are not to be confused with the practitioners of some form of indigenous medicine or the other. There have been “Hakims” and “Vaids” in villages who spend a lifetime perfecting their own unique art of healing and many people benefit by them to. In their case, it is usually a family tradition that is handed down to each successive generation by the one preceding it. However, for serious ailments that require corrective surgery or hospitalization or for the terminally ill patient there is no real substitute for the allopathic system of medicine. Villages also have indigenous midwives or “Dais” who assist in deliveries and have generally made a good job of it. However, one cannot ignore the fact that infant mortality rates are much higher in villages where there is no properly trained gynecologist available, especially when complications develop and a caesarean section is necessitated.

It is a pity the government has still been unable to provide basic health care facilities for the rural poor. Disease, malnutrition, over population and lack of primary education still continue to bedevil in our country, which has touched the billion mark already. One out of every six human beings on planet Earth is now an Indian! Health is a primary need and concern of both the individual and the society he lives in. Good health is basic to the well being of an individual. Even if full–fledged medical graduates are not trained and sent to the rural areas, experts have suggested putting those who would be interested through a short–term crash course in the basics of medicine along with human anatomy and physiology and give them a valid certificate and government license to help provide primary health care to people in the rural areas. That suggestion has been made several times now but seems to have fallen on the deaf ears of the powers that be. Alas!