Though Ekbal makes a climb-down on his initial post, he still suggests a slip-up in filmmaker's treatment

After courting a controversy on medical ethics through his Facebook posting on the death of legendary filmmaker John Abraham, former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University B. Ekbal has made a considerable climb-down through another post in clarification on Wednesday.

Mr. Ekbal, who was a surgeon at Kozhikode Medical College where the filmmaker was admitted for treatment following his fall from a house top after a drinking session 26 years ago, had said in the Facebook that the director could have been saved if his identity was known to the doctors at the time of admission. He said the doctors at the casualty didn’t know John and mistook him for a film representative when he said that he was a filmmaker.

Mr. Ekbal’s posting in the social networking site sparked heated debate in the virtual world, forcing the health activist to come out with a reply. Those who reacted to his initial posting raised a few pertinent questions: Is medical treatment dependent on the status of the patient? Doesn’t an ordinary film representative have equal right to proper medical care as a celebrated filmmaker?

In his reply, Mr. Ekbal clarified that unknown ordinary citizens and destitute deserve proper medical care as much as celebrities like John Abraham. “There is no doubt that there should not be any discrimination when it comes to medical care,” he wrote.

He, however, drew attention to what he regarded as some distinct issues in the case of John. Many of his friends who brought him to hospital didn’t stay back. John was drunk and was under the impact of the injuries suffered during the fall. Without anyone to help, John’s condition was far worse than other patients. “My initial post was borne out of a personal guilt feeling that I could have saved his life if I were able to see him at that time and was not aimed at blaming anyone,” Mr. Ekbal said. Interestingly, it still does not clarify his initial statement which alluded that John didn’t receive the treatment he deserved because his status as a legendary filmmaker was unknown to doctors who attended to him.

In fact, he states that the initial posting was not aimed at establishing negligence on the part of doctors. Mr. Ekbal then goes on to point out the inherent deficiencies under which the casualty of a government hospital functions.

The doctors and other medical staff function within various limitations, including lack of infrastructure, human resource and proper medical protocols and excessive rush of patients. He, however, agrees that those shortcomings are no excuses for medical negligence while stating that it is the responsibility of doctors and other medical staff to learn from slipups.

In his initial posting Mr. Ekbal said the doctors failed to diagnose internal bleeding suffered by John and to check his blood pressure which could have prevented him from slipping into a shock through a timely surgery. Mr. Ekbal pointed out in his reply that such patients with internal bleeding could be subjected to ultrasound scanning and extended appropriate medical care, including surgery.

Mr. Ekbal wraps up his posting saying that his statement on John’s death was not a new revelation as medical negligence was alleged even at that time. He says that though a departmental inquiry was conducted into the incident, he was unaware what happened thereafter.

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