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Professional jealousy among medicos

Jealousy is a dangerous trait in the personality of a human being. History had witnessed empires falling down, properties ruined, people attacked and even killed. A psychological disorder known as 'Morbid Jealousy Syndrome' in which a spouse would suspect the partner for infidelity has been categorised as a serious mental health problem. The sufferer of this disorder would spy on the spouse, seek repeated confessions and cause physical harm. Hence, this syndrome would carry a high homicidal risk for the partner.

This is one condition where a mental health professional can safely recommend 'divorce' and geographical separation. This syndrome is also known as 'Othello Syndrome'- a Shakespearean drama character which was also filmed in noted Bollywood movie 'Omkara'. A jealous person would not only cause harm to his or her victim but would suffer from severe agony and mental stress. This human trait is widely prevalent and manifested in behaviour in today's modern world. Level of literacy has nothing to do with it. Professional jealousy is noted in almost every profession but medical doctors are specially identified as harmful perpetrators for their victims. An Italian Professor in his publication, identified doctors as second after actors in displaying professional jealousy.

Referring the writer's article in Irish Medical Times " Psychologists believe that jealousy is a life-long conditioning process and is not just instinctive. But one can wonder, if this is a common human attribute, why then should the elite medical profession rank so high? Could it be because of the practice of superiority of some over others? Or the intense competitiveness among those choosing this profession, or the acquired egoism because of the glitter and respect that this profession carries?

Would this be due to the fact that some people with paranoid traits are lured into this profession and become the eventual perpetrators?

With regard to actors, there are suggestions by psychologists that they may carry histrionic traits. What is the likelihood that medicos also carry narcissistic traits, which manifest in sabotaging other colleagues in order to preserve self-inflated identity? There could also be a tendency for the medicos to suffer from 'narcissistic injury' in the event of challenges to their diagnostic competence, their high success rates and superior demeanour among other colleagues. This appears to a pivotal issue for the manifestation of professional jealousy."

Doctors in Pakistan are in no way behind anybody in subjecting their colleagues to harassment. There are many victims among the medical doctors. A famous Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon once sought help from Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) as he was subjected to defamation. A report was published in a local magazine declaring him as a fake specialist. His rival plotted this conspiracy against him and sent an inquiry to a foreign registration authority seeking confirmation of his qualifications. The spelling of the name of that doctor did not match and hence the authority was unable to confirm the fact. This point was taken to tarnish his image and a campaign was launched against him. This doctor came to the PMA executive committee with all his credentials and proof of solid confirmation from the foreign authority. The magazine had to rectify their mistake and tendered apology. Later, it was found that his senior professional colleague did it out of sheer professional jealousy.

Spreading rumours about the credentials is very common in our country. A private hospital once received a registered letter stating about a Cardiologist of not being in possession of any postgraduate qualification in his specialty. The only fault on the part of the doctor was that he did not get his qualification registered with the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC). Ironically, such defamatory allegations are perpetrated by very senior doctors who become jealous of their colleague's popularity among patients and masses. These seniors use their subordinates or junior doctors to write such letters against their professional colleagues.

Incidents like launching smearing campaigns, physical assaults, threats and attempts to malign are the common features of harassment. If a doctor would become popular by write ups in newspapers or appearance on TV shows, the rivals would not hesitate in contacting the concerned editors or programme managers advising them not to publish the write ups and not to invite in TV shows.

In order to convince these concerned people they would frame a false defamatory story. In Pakistan, many senior doctors as well as junior doctors are involved in such practice. Junior doctors are used as vehicles to perpetrate these malicious deeds. Many a times, pharmaceutical representatives are used for these purposes. In earlier times, public sector hospital doctors were known as perpetrators but in recent times private sector hospital doctors are also playing such roles.

Ironically, few doctors belong to supposedly high-reputed institutions. The question is: why do doctors get involved in such practice? Jealousy as described earlier is a personality instinct that compels the individual to act in this abnormal way. Such persons may have defective personality trait, their developmental history may be disturbing and faulty, they may have undergone adverse life circumstances or have an undiagnosed underlying personality disorder. They get gratification by this act but at the same time they remain quite insecure and stressed. The feeling of insecurity keep them under constant agony. According to Dr Jan Dolezalek, a Canadian psychiatrist, these doctors display the 'school bullying' type of behaviour and remain constantly disturbed by the fact that their colleagues have accomplished higher successes. The victims may develop stress, anxiety, depression and emotional turbulence by such acts. A local study by the writer confirmed these facts.

Though professional jealousy among medicos is a global problem, the issue is more serious in Pakistan because of lack of accountability. There is a need for a 'Medical Ombudsman' for our country. Only then the victims of such jealousy can bring their grievances to the forefront and seek help and justice.

(The writer is a Professor of Psychiatry at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2012


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