Vive-la-Liberté – Long Live Freedom

Free Speech

Free Speech

Although reacting to the Paris massacre is not in our line of work, but we are not outside world events. The tragedy has brought on mixed reactions from all across, ever since the murder of people associated with the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo. The world is decrying the horrific act by terrorists in the name of religion and most of people are floundering with regard to Freedom of Expression.

Looking back we are well aware that free speech has a long history, predating today’s world. It is a concept that had gained acceptance from times of ancient Athens, from where in fact the genesis of democratic traditions had emerged in the late 6th – early 5th century BC. The Roman Republic had incorporated the values of freedom of speech and freedom of religion back then.

In fact the notion of freedom of speech is to be found in early human rights documents of England too that had granted freedom of speech through the Bill of Rights in 1689, still effective to this day. In 1789 France also affirmed freedom of speech through The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution.

Acceptance of free speech iterates the idea of free communication of ideas and opinions and remains one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen accordingly may speak, write, and print with freedom as long as it does not abuse the freedom of another. However, often one gets carried away overlooking freedom of another to spell out home truths. In such times remember the words – “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Penned by one the most famous of French men, François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, it is time to remember his advocacy for freedom of expression. Voltaire was outspoken despite threats under strict censorship laws of his time. But his satirical wit continued to criticize intolerance, and dogma. This courageous writer continued fighting for civil rights while denouncing hypocrisies and injustices of the Ancien Regime of France.

Let us then encourage a more tolerant viewpoint and remember that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It is a right that includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In conclusion we can do well to remember George Orwell’s words – “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

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For a Better World – Millennium Development Goals

Millennium Development Goals

Millennium Development Goals

Millennium Development Goals or MDGs are time-bound, quantified targets the world had set for itself. The goals addressed extreme poverty, hunger, disease, lack of shelter and to promote gender equality, education and environmental sustainability. It was in 2000 that 189 nations pledged to free the world from such debilitating deprivations. The pledge was converted into 8 MDGs that were to be achieved by 2015.

In September 2010 the world connected again to recommit itself to accelerate these goals. Presently the UN agenda too rests on these MDGs and the target is to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015. The UN Millennium Campaign since 2002 supported and inspired people from around the world to take action for the MDGs.

While some countries made remarkable efforts in achieving health-related targets others have lagged behind. The countries making the least progress were actually affected by economic hardship or conflict. However targets are yet being adhered to and the 8 MDGs ranging from cutting extreme poverty by half, restricting HIV/AIDS and providing primary education are all target bound until 2015.

The blueprint for action agreeable to all countries received support from leading development institutions. These agencies spurred the process with their exceptional assistance so that targets could be achieved. The UN itself works with governments and allied partners to keep up the momentum. In fact health related targets were hand-held by World Health Organization to support efforts for achieving targets. WHO helped in developing health policies for governments to align priorities and track progress as also to disseminate data to plan spending patterns.

The Indian government too chalked out its 12th Five-Year Plan in conjunction with MDG targets to achieve faster and sustainable results. It brought about inclusive growth by incorporating the MDG working frame. This further ratified the potential for prioritized action on the MDG agenda. The ‘Millennium Development Goals (MDG) India Country Report-2014′ captures India’s progress that will be achieved by 2015. 2014, being the penultimate year for the efforts proved significant in realistically assessing progress.

All progress towards reaching these goals have seen mixed results. Despite unforeseen setbacks the reduction in poverty and increased access to health, education, technology and other essential services in many countries’ have been made into a reality. Of particular note is the work undertaken on AIDS that saw dramatic leveling off and decline. The world now looks ahead to the new set of goals established for 2016-2030.

End Poverty & Deprivation

End Poverty & Deprivation

Sushruta – Medical Pioneer of Ancient India

Sushruta – Medical Pioneer of Ancient India

Sushruta – Medical Pioneer of Ancient India

Sushruta is considered one of the earliest surgeons in recorded history and has been the first individual to describe plastic surgery in his famous ancient treatise ‘Sushruta Samhita’. He is said to have lived nearly 150 years before Hippocrates, and his renowned compendium written in 600 B.C. spells out surgical procedures in minutest detail. He is also credited to be the first surgeon to perform plastic surgery!

Many believe plastic surgery to be a new specialty. However its origins are ascertained to have existed over 4000 years back in India. The Vedas compiled in Sanskrit language between 3000 and 1000 B.C. comprise of the oldest sacred books of the Hindu religion. Of the four Vedas – ‘Sushruta Samhita’ is a part of Atharvaveda. The treatise describes ancient Indian tradition of surgery and remains a most brilliant compilation in Indian medical literature.

The treatise contains detailed descriptions of teachings and practice elucidated by this great ancient surgeon said to have been practicing in Varanasi. It also provides surgical knowledge that is of relevance to this day. As a pioneer in the field of surgery, Sushruta expounds prolifically on the healing arts that were grounded on physiology and medicine. He studied human anatomy with the help of dead bodies! Much as in medical colleges today.

The Samhita specifically describes methods for selecting and preserving dead bodies to be studied. Cadavers of elderly or severely diseased were not taken up for purposes of study. Bodies needed to be perfectly clean and were preserved with barks. They were placed in cages, hidden carefully in the river for currents to soften them. After seven days they were retrieved, cleaned with brushes for inner and outer body parts to be seen clearly.

Over 1100 diseases are mentioned in this ancient tome including 26 types of fevers, 8 kinds of jaundice and 20 different urinary disorders. There are 760 plants inclusive of roots, bark, juice, resin, flowers etc. that are described in detail for treatments. These also include common household remedies like cinnamon, sesame, peppers, cardamom, ginger and more. Additionally the treatise offers descriptions of 101 instruments used in surgery.

Sushruta’s greatest contributions were in the fields of plastic surgery and removal of cataracts. In a time when cutting of nose or ears was a common punishment, restoration of these parts and even limbs lost in wars was a common medical practice. There are detailed and accurate step-by-step descriptions of such operations. Strikingly these are the very steps followed by modern surgeons doing plastic surgery even today.

Serious procedures were undertaken like drawing fetuses out of wombs, repairing damaged rectums and removing stones from bladders. Surgical techniques included incisions, probing, extraction of foreign bodies, cauterization, tooth extraction, excisions, draining abscess, draining hydrocele, removal of prostate gland, urethral stricture dilatation, hernia surgery, management of haemorrhoids, fistulae, intestinal obstruction, perforated intestines, and accidental perforation of abdomen. Students were given knowledge of relevant branches of medicine to attain proficiency in allied subjects.

Sushruta Samhita remains an important text on medicine that is also a foundational text for Ayurveda. This seminal text was translated to Arabic as Kitab-i-Susrud in the 8th century. The Arabic translation was received in Europe by the end of the medieval period when Renaissance Italy became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta Samhita. Among other translations since then, more recently in 1999, P. V. Sharma undertook an English translation of this ancient Indian medical treatise.

First Surgeon Performing Plastic Surgery!

First Surgeon Performing Plastic Surgery!

The Saga of Medical Camps Going Wrong

Unfortunate Medical Camp - 60 People lose Vision

Unfortunate Medical Camp – 60 People lose Vision

As an integral part of the medical fraternity we are naturally mortified and concerned about the way in which some medical camps have recently been organized. Just as we were getting over the tragedy of the Chhattisgarh mass sterilization debacle here comes another tragedy where sixty senior persons lost their vision after eye operations at a medical camp organized in Punjab. One can only wonder at the lax manner in which such free medical camps get organized.

Unknowingly people suffer these shocking calamities every once in a while, and when such morbid instances gain epic proportions, one can only surmise that planning and preparations were haywire. These recent cases have drawn much flak, from both national and international media, and also great deal of debating  has occurred amid the district medical authorities and medical groups in these areas.

It therefore becomes very essential to gain an understanding of the role of free camps or continuing medical education programmes as the case may be, to carefully examine the proprieties of holding such camps. We know for sure that it is largely poor and weaker sections of society that come to such camps. More often than not the implementing agencies are either adhering to targets, or fulfilling agendas or even using such opportunities for effective marketing gambits. But unwittingly they often backfire by some wrong or incorrect planning.

Whatever their intention – one thing is definite that participating crowds of mainly poor patients do benefit from the ministrations of medical doctors and even get free medications for their treatments. HERD Foundation has a history of organizing such medical camps since the past several years, and it has been with a sense of commitment that we have literally reproduced hospital like setting in the outdoors. In our experience such camps have to be planned meticulously right down to the smallest detail to be tapped properly.

Hand in hand with Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, our sister concern, we have catered to the medical needs of large numbers of poor, weak, and marginalized people both in villages and in city slums. It has been no mean task to delegate responsibilities at every level for day long health camps providing free medical checkups to over 2000 registered people. We include eight medical departments ( Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Surgery, Dental and ENT Departments) from our hospital with matching teams of doctors, interns, nurses and attendants providing due support to examine and treat patients.

HERD Foundations innovative approaches have attempted such health care delivery in deep rural-tribal areas close to Nagpur. We have been able to provide the best health facilities and services to the poor tribal populations, until quite recently absolutely free of cost. Referral cases get patients treated in hospital for which they are duly charged so that a value based model of health care becomes available. Our own strategy has been to focus on key elements of effective risk management to endeavor to anticipate what could possibly go wrong, work towards reducing chances of it going wrong and plan what to do when it does go wrong. Understanding the essence of “risk management” sees to it that medical camps pre-assess and manage these risks.

Chattisgarh Sterilization Camp Debacle

Chattisgarh Sterilization Camp Debacle

Queuing Up In Advance

Nagardhan health camp

Nagardhan health camp 

The Nagardhan Medical Camp organised by us was a huge success. People had already arrived at the spot waiting patiently on their haunches since 1’0 clock in the afternoon. When our team arrived to set up the logistical arrangements at the venue we were pleasantly surprised to find a motley crew already assembled.

Without much ado the practiced team pitched up a mock hospital set up with ease of habit. We have done such health camps  earlier at Tamaswadi, Parseoni, Parsodi Peth, kerdi, bakhari, ambazari, Kolitmara, sihora, Kachurwahi, Parsodi, Pardi, Nagpur. So setting up the works was no hassle and soon the registrations counters were busy.

HERD Foundation began operations for this free camp in no time. Many people from adjoining villages of the Taluka had also come for the camp. The visitors included plentiful women as is common in our camps.  Also children and the elderly were brought in by family members to get them all checked and given free medicines for their different conditions.

The health camp started at 4:00 pm to continue well over 09: 00 pm at night providing free medical checkups to nearly 2400 registered people. An important feature of the camp was that besides active medical treatment it emphasised on the importance of proper hygiene and prevention measures especially in the ongoing monsoon season.

Eight medical departments of NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences and Lata Mangeshkar Hospital with a team of doctors, interns, nurses and attendants provided support to examine and treat the people. The medical and paramedical team of Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Surgery, Dental and ENT Departments attended to patients who were mobilized from the localized villages around Nagardhan.

The camp was privileged by the presence of HERD Foundation founder Dr. Amol Deshmukh who along with field staff had organized the entire arrangements to make it such an overwhelming success. HERD Foundation’s chief social objective is medical relief for poor and needy. Dr. Amol Deshmukh continues to play a key role and in contributing for the medical welfare of people through provision of active medical treatment. He is a strong advocate for weaker sections to gain access to medical care, particularly those living in such remote rural areas.