The Dilemma ‘To Treat Or Not To Treat’


Well-known member
  • Mar 29, 2017
    Prof Harendra De Silva

    One doctor’s refusal to treat a politician has stirred a hornets’ nest of opposing opinions. Has he done the right thing or not?
    On one hand, a majority professionals are supporting the change in governance with the youth leading the way. They are desperate since the government party politicians and other affiliated parties are preventing the anticipated change coming from their public outcry with irrational arguments including alleged bribery in US$! One of the salient features is the sustained non-violence principle advocated by them; although the government is not budging in any tangible way. The government is also guilty of provoking them with physical attacks. The Youth are well aware of this strategy and would not fall for it. The danger is, when people who are suffering without any guidance would at sometime turn violent which the government would use to justify violence in a bigger way to suppress it.

    Boycott is one of the most effective non-violent weapons that could be used, especially when the government is not moving. The elite and professionals have an effective clout to jitter the government, especially in using non-violence! I don’t have to repeat Gandhi’s strategies. When, how and by whom matters. I believe that professionals are strategists but a few would obstruct it especially when they have a conflict of interest. Personal favours, rewards and appointment to positions of power are some instances, which may be hidden in a shroud of irregularity on whether someone claims to be viyatha or not. The professionals should start strategizing using experienced think tanks. Knee Jerk reactions are often Misconstrued and used to the success of opponents. Instead of emotional spontaneous reactions, it is well advised to draw policies by the different professional groups reviewing it from the feedback.
    Boycott of patients by medical personnel could cause an uprising by some professionals as well as lay public with genuine concerns. We should not fall prey to others with conflict of interests who could capitalise on it. In this situation, professionals who have been ‘bribed’ with positions may make their own interpretations to curry favour with government for future positions. It is also said that some medical personnel who are competing with the particular doctor in private practice which may be catalysts with possible trade unions to ignite the issue. With this particular doctor’s reaction many were elated and called for others to follow. It is the emotional atmosphere reacting to a stubborn stand by government which led to the incident. However, while pursuing the immense pressure on government, we cannot afford to be naked even for a moment! It is crucial to realise that: on a positive note, although not encouraging it, this has given jitters to the rulers who should be made to succumb to pressure, but it may raise questions in ethics.

    Let me suggest a few strategies:

    Most of these strategies have been suggested ad hoc. It should be streamlined and properly strategized, most of which will be more effective than what has happened.

    1. Doctors have to be concerned of the ethical code of conduct. It is better to go by the book on ethics and decided by a group of senior professionals including lawyers to prevent possible litigation. These people should publish the details for doctors to follow. On the same note Health professional staff going on strike raises the question whether it affects politicians or the poor public. Wouldn’t it be double jeopardy to the public? We should leave individual doctors to follow this advice without accusing doctors for not boycotting them. They may not be given priority and should be treated like a normal patient preferably requesting them to go to government hospitals. I leave it to the committee to draw guidelines.

    2. Hooting at politicians and denigrating their superior public stature to affect their security as a politician or person in society is critical. It should never cause physical harm but emotional instability. Belittling politicians started at a cricket match a few months ago. The same politician involved in the treatment controversy was hooted at a restaurant not so long ago. Today’s hooting and denigration of the most popular politician ever in Sri Lanka, in Anuradhapura would have been like an earthquake crumbing under his feet at one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka. None of the strands of multi coloured mythological threads on his wrists, talismans he wore or held in his hand nor the vows made to all sorts of gods were able to avert the evil spell he encountered. Something that rings in my mind is “All the King’s horses and all the king’s men. Couldn’t put Humpty together again”. I hope that the mind of this charismatic, crafty, supposedly invincible, stubborn and strong man was shattered today by the people. More and more politicians should be jeered but without bodily harm. We don’t want a repetition of what happened to Gaddafi!

    3. Opposition politicians should get a cue from what is happening to a former prime minister.

    4. Do not invite any Politician as a chief guest or as an attesting witness at weddings. This concept should be widely disseminated.

    5. Boycott all such receptions with protests to deter such invitations.

    6. Organise, determine and arrange protests during visits to their respective constituencies or their homes. Physical attacks to property or persons; is condemned.

    7. Contractors, engineers and workers should stop or go slow at private sites of these politicians. Engineers should develop their own protocols.

    8. Lawyers in General have done yeomen service to the struggle except for a few oligarchs who may appear for the culprits. Lawyers should have a similar protocol as doctors within ethics to refuse appearing for new cases. Lawyers should also file new cases against them at least in the form of public interest litigations. It is interesting that some opposition members drop file by file of alleged corruption! Aren’t they guilty of not filing cases against those allegations? Accountability is for all including the opposition, you and me.

    9. Similarly, all other professions and workers should organize their own strategies.

    10. None of these actions should harm life or physical injury at all to anyone. (Mental disease and suicide may be exempted)

    11. It also should not lead to suffering or death of the common man.

    12. Of course, many other strategies may be properly planned and executed. Brainstorm a trustworthy think tank.

    There is one important aspect. This ‘Aragalaya’ – ‘අරගලය’ (struggle) should not stop but sustained to gather momentum till the downfall of the corrupt and evil regime.