Flashback : Doctor Tumhi Sudha - A Case For Medical Ethics

Deepa Gahlot

At a time when doctors are being hailed as corona warriors, and rightly so, looking back at a play that reminded the medical profession of its real duty. Doctor Tumhi Sudha is available online.

When Ajit Dalvi wrote Doctor Tumhi Sudha about 25 years ago, it raised important questions about ethics in the medical profession, most of which are still valid.

It is common knowledge that for every dedicated doctor who treats medicine as a noble profession, there are doctors who make money not just from inflated fees, but cut-backs from other specialists and medical stores; they order needless tests, pump patients with too much medication and seldom have the time to really heal the sick.

The play was directed by Chandrakant Kulkarni (Mangesh Kadam directed the video) and the version that is online stars Girish Oak, Prateeksha Lonkar and Samir Patil as doctors with divergent views on their profession.

Dr Avinash Patwardhan (Oak) has chosen to teach instead of setting up a private practice, while his wife Dr Vaidehi (Lonkar) runs a small hospital with Dr Shirish Pendse (Patil) and Dr Gokhale (Anand Abhyankar). They have ambitions of setting up a large multi-specialty hospital in their town, and the wheeling-dealing Shirish, has managed a large bank loan.

When the three are out attending a concert and networking, a woman, Ratna Pawar (Pratima Joshi) makes a shocking revelation to Dr Avinash, that when she had come to the hospital for infertility treatment, her uterus was removed without her knowledge; worse, the doctors did not inform her of it and kept treating her for the problem. Till she took a second opinion, she continued to go through tests and unnecessary medicines. It was a grave blunder, though legally, Shirish covered the hospital by getting the signature of Ratna’s husband (Sanjay Kulkarni) on a consent form.

Ratna is disgusted with her aggressive husband’s haggling for money with the doctors, and demands that Dr Vaidehi give her uterus to replace hers. She also goes to court against the hospital, with the help of Dr Avinash. This causes an upheaval in the Patwardhans’ marriage, and a crack in the friendship between the doctors.

Vaidehi thinks her husband keeps his idealism intact but lives off her hard work, that he wants to be a crusader at her expense. In a powerful dialogue between Avinash and Shirish, they debate medical ethics—the former believes medicine is a vocation, the latter has no qualms admitting that for him, it is a business. He does not want to be deprived of luxuries, just because their work is considered "noble."

With fine performances, thought-provoking dialogue, and the playwright’s skill in looking at every side of the issue, the play was a hit (also adapted into Gujarati as Doctor Tame Pan), and is still worth a watch.

(Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, columnist, author and curator. Some of her writings are on deepagahlot.com)

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