The moment a person puts a stethoscope around his neck, it lends identity and respect to him. Doctors, while moving briskly through the patient filled corridors of hospitals always put it around their necks to ensure a free passage to them. A white coat alone doesn’t certify a person as doctor, a stethoscope does.
Not only in hospitals, wearing it around the neck lends respect to the person even in public and that includes traffic police. The moment a traffic policeman finds it across the neck of the driver, his attitude softens.
However, with time, this magical medical instrument is fast losing its glory and usefulness. It has become more a symbol of identity and lesser a diagnostic instrument. In pre-corona times, instances of Doctors attacked or steered to courts by the relatives of patients who couldn’t be saved were often heard. Such instances brought a change in doctor’s attitude. Even if they could diagnose the illness, they preferred to ask for multiple tests, scans, ultrasounds to be on safe side. The final prescription is issued after having a look at the test results unless the patient was a relative or friend.
In early eighties, medical tests were rarely prescribed. Even blood tests or an X-Ray were prescribed with hesitation. You visited a clinic, got examined with doctor’s stethoscope on your chest and back, inhaling and exhaling as per doctor’s directions and the ailment was discovered! Doctors trained in those times still use stethoscope extensively and the diagnosis made is always correct.
My brother, a doctor at Ludhiana, would always say that a clinical examination entails real expertise of a doctor. And diagnosis by him is always found correct, only substantiated by the tests prescribed to confirm the same and make a patient believe. I remember an incident of late eighties. A thin girl of Patiala was not building up despite best efforts by her parents to nourish her. Dr. Karamvir checked her and diagnosed that she had a tiny hole in her heart. Girl’s parents got her checked. Nothing was found. Dr. Karamvir insisted that as per his clinical examination, it was there. The parents took the girl to PGI. The hole was
discovered and Director, PGI congratulated Dr. Karamvir over his diagnosis. The girl was cured and today, she is excelling in her professional career!
I remember another incident. My wife was having consistent stomach pain for many days that turned into weeks. I consulted gastroenterologists. Many tests including X-rays, ultrasounds, liver tests were done and medicines prescribed. There was no relief. A doctor asked if she felt back pain also. On saying yes, he added pancreas related tests. No dose of heavy medicines healed her and she remained in trouble.
Four weeks had passed like this. One day, I rang up my brother at Ludhiana. ‘Find time and visit us someday,’ I requested. He landed with us same evening and examined her tummy with his stethoscope and declared, ‘She has Colitis, sort of inflammation. Administer a Metrogyl tablet course to her. Few paisa tablets. She’ll be fine in week or ten days!’
The problem was cured and didn’t occur again. The magic of stethoscope….and its user!!