July 27, 2005

Labour Pains

Author's Note: When I started writing this blog, never for a moment did I believe that I could use this as a forum to write on 'serious' topics, though some of my posts (viz., A Damning Revelation, Cause for Concern?, etc.) would point to the contrary. So I was quite unprepared when I got a call from one of my friends - a couple whom I have known for quite sometime now, and was perplexed when they narrated to me the incident described here.

The couple requested me to post a write-up on their experience, so that others will know what they suffered, and be a tad more careful and cautious when they face a similar experience themselves. They were, and still are, unsure whether they should take legal recourse to their sufferings. But they wanted that their sad experience should at least be made public, in the interest of others who might end up in a similar situation, as well as the general public who might comment and suggest what the couple could possibly do to alleviate their misery. This article, however, is NOT a reflection on the state of affairs throughout Germany, nor is it a blanket accusation on all doctors alike. It is just a whistle-blower on some ironies in the system here.

At the time I wrote the post Cause for Concern? the most I expected to come out of it was a slight caution on the side of the students and others here who might read it, when they approached the doctors here. A random one-off incident - that is how I dismissed it, though my experiences during the past 4 years suggested otherwise. Little did I realize that I will be hearing about an even worse and more serious example of the apathy and callousness of the system (read: doctors) here.

I have known this couple for more than three years now. Let me just call them 'she' and 'he'. Sounds odd for pseudonyms, but I cannot get myself to name them otherwise, even if it is only for the sake of maintaining their anonymity. I am afraid I will lose my sense of neutrality if I use their original names (not that there are no other reasons for doing it), and I will be doing gross injustice to myself if I narrate the incident as having happened to some one else, even if it is only the names that I am replacing. No, let it be just 'she' and 'he'.

Around January this year she approached a Frauenärtztin (Gynaecologist) in Darmstadt, suspecting she might be pregnant. Blood tests were done, and the results were negative. She was given twelve pills – hormones to regulate her menstrual cycle, of which she consumed all but one. At this juncture, just on a whim she wanted to confirm her suspicions. She performed some pregnancy tests herself, using kits available at any pharmacy. To her shock, she found that she was indeed pregnant, whence she returned to the doctor. By now, she was sure there had sincerely been some mistake in the blood tests. Her suspicions were confirmed, and she was declared pregnant. The foetus was eight weeks old. In her own words, “She (the doctor) gave us lots of hopes saying that the foetus is visible clearly in the ultrasound scan and further said she is going to measure the heart beat of the baby next time …”. She was prescribed some vitamins, and was asked to consult the doctor after a month. Joy turned to despair when it was revealed that the foetus, now three months old, was dead. (She suspects it was probably because of the hormone pills prescribed by the gynaecologist.) She was referred to a famous hospital in Darmstadt (name withheld), for surgical removal of the dead foetus. Sometime in April, she was operated, and the foetus removed.

When she returned home, she had some pains. Three other ladies upon whom the same surgery was performed seemed to be relatively at ease, showing no signs of pain or malaise. In June, the pains got so intense that she approached another gynaecologist, who was of the opinion that the surgery was probably not properly performed, as a result of which her womb was damaged. The doctor also opined that probably she might never get pregnant again. Nevertheless, the doctor thought it better to diagnose her for some hormonal problems, the results of which are still awaited.

The couple wishes to take legal recourse, but they find the cost and complexity of the legal system here prohibitive. Especially for a foreigner, who might easily be branded an Auslander, it is but the last resort to seek the services of a lawyer here. I am not exaggerating facts here, but this is the situation with most foreigners here, especially those from the third world countries. But at the least, they wanted their plight to be made public so that others might know of it and be aware of the pitfalls in the system here.

This is where they stood different from most other Ausländer - foreigners - especially from a third world country. Where one might easily have swallowed his / her bad experience and resigned themselves to their fate, this couple decided to put one back. Where others would say, "Hey, yes I have a problem with this aspect of the society. But what can I do? I am after all an 'Auslander' who came here for some work, so let me just digest anything and everything that is thrown at me, and ignore them", this couple decided to brave the odds. Believe me, in my four years here as a foreign student, most of the people in this bracket (third-world-foreigner / student) have never openly come out against their problems with the system. I do not suggest that one must be bellicose and be ready for a fight every time he faces something unpleasant. Rather the contrary.

For one, I believe that if you keep quiet when you face a problem, you are guilty of omission, since you are not helping some one else avoid a similar problem in the future. By not letting others know that there is a problem, you are snatching an opportunity to address this problem prima facie, which may well have helped solving it. But after all, is this not the norm? It is just a handful of people who are man enough to accept that there is a problem in the first place, leave alone come out with it in the open. May be it is because of the attitude prevalent in our countries that it is not manly to tell others you have a problem. If you have a problem, then keep it to yourself, and do not go about washing your dirty linen in public, for it is not the mark of a man. Pity, linen it is I agree, but definitely not dirty.

I would discuss the implications of this incident and the mentality of the lonely Auslander in a separate post in the future. For now, it suffices to say that I am pumped up and glad to see at least one person (or two) having the stomach to hit back. Two Davids, against the Goliath that the system here is. Hats off to thee. Carpe Diem.


Anonymous said...

The tale of that lady is really sad. The attitude of germans towards dark/non white skinned people is very racist & sick. Most of them believe that germans are superior.

GERMANS ARE VERY RACIST & most of them subscribe to Nazi philosophy.

Looking through the Postcard said...

This is very dishearting to know about how people in German , even doctors treat Asians.
Do update us about what is happening now wrt the action the couple are taking against the system.
I would be glad to help them.