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Playing God comes easy for doctors. It is all too common for a cardiologist to think that the life saved was due to his/her own effort. In any case such a happy ending to a sick patient’s sojourn in the ICCU always gives a great feeling. But today my dilemma was a different one.


A seventy year old man is in my hospital as we speak. He has a hole in his heart from birth & that’s troubling him now. He’s better after receiving some medicines but my problem is whether to go the whole hog & send him up for surgery. The basic pro-con question is, whether to take a five or six percent risk of death during surgery on a seventy year old gentleman who has seen it all, or let him live on medications for an indeterminate time period without putting him into an immediate man-made risk. Remember, average lifespan in India is 65 years for men & this man has seen his great-grand child.


The family looks up to me to take a decision. “We trust you. Do whatever is best for him. But please make sure that he’s alright”. The last line is a killer!


I took this problem to a very senior colleague of mine. He asked me to perform some more tests & see if the old man merits surgery. My problem is not that. Intuitively I know that the man will qualify for surgery after the tests. But before running those expensive tests (he has no insurance – has to pay from his pocket), what I need to know is, if he does merit surgery, should I send him to the surgeon?


I think the question is not of mathematics: Five or 6% risk is small so should we try to beat the odds?


The real question is: If I send him for surgery, and if he dies, can I shrug my shoulders & walk off from the family?


The real question is: What are the true odds that he will do as well without surgery?


Who will ever know the real answers?



One Comment

  1. tymz in lyf..v hv to put up wid only ?? v r nt ready for d ansrz yet….

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