To Whomsoever It May Concern- Dead bodies and Ayurvedic Surgery.

“To Whomsoever It May Concern”- I started to type. This was way back in 2006. I was working in a private hospital. I had just completed my Plastic Surgery residency. This was for a patient on whom I had done a multiple tendon and nerve repair for the hand during my residency. I thought I had done it well, but the results were pathetic. He had practically no function in the hand. I had to certify that he had quite a large, permanent disability.

“As I had, due to inadequate expertise, practically zero follow up and physiotherapy, screwed up royally”. This was how I should have finished that certificate, but refrained wisely from doing so.

I had my justifications. Prior to us- before a few interested Plastic Surgery residents started going to the emergency room, and actively sought out these patients and commenced doing them, all the complex hand injuries were done by the first year residents in Orthopedics. And the results were horrendous.

Look- a lot of Orthopedicians are good hand surgeons. But it is a simple fact of life that they need training for at least two years in a high-volume centre, before they can do it properly.

So do Plastic Surgeons. Unless they have solid graded experience, a Plastic Surgeon is no hand surgeon.

My simple and humble point is, no surgery is simple. No treatment in Modern Medicine is simple.

But that doesn’t mean only doctors can do anything in it. Look- there are nurses doing colonoscopy and complex follow ups. There are emergency paramedics who can anesthetize and intubate a patient on the road and bring that person safely to a hospital. In our own system, we have asha workers and public health nurses authorized to give certain medicines and antenatal care with strict guidelines.

But these are all within a clearly defined, logically and scientifically designed, proper framework, which is evidence based. Or it should be.

Suddenly, a circular appears. “To Whomsoever It May Concern”. A list is magically conjured from thin air, that specifies the type of surgeries that an Ayurvedic Doctor can do, after training in “Shalyathanthra”.


Cataract surgery, surgery for squint, trabeculectomy- ah!

Mastoidectomy, Tympanoplasty…Well! I ask you! If a newly qualified ENT surgeon is asked to go and do a mastoidectomy all alone, most would experience an instantaneous loosening of the sphincters, and sinus tachycardia.

Fracture fixations, hernia repair, laparotomies, …the list goes on and on.

Let me ask you one thing. Can you show or name A SINGLE Surgeon in the whole world, who can do all these surgeries with an acceptable level of expertise?

And the excuse given is Susrutha.

I know. In 500 BC, we were world leaders in Surgery. That is true. What Susrutha could do was amazing at that time.

But today, there are only two words to describe Susrutha’s techniques- Primitive Surgery.

No. This would not make me a derider of my ancient Indian legacy. It is just a statement of fact.

If Susrutha were to be resurrected magically today, he would have been thrilled. What would he have done?

Shrugging off our abundant accolades, he would have sought admission to a Modern Medical School to study MBBS. Then he would have joined a surgical residency.

He would have been astonished at the things humanity have achieved since his time. To see the beating heart, and to look at the pulsating brain, would have dumbfounded him. He would have been stunned to see what modern Anaesthesia can do.

Everything would be new to him. Biochemistry, Physiology, Anatomy.

Yes- even Anatomy. The knowledge of anatomy blossomed only after curious humans started dissecting dead bodies to see what they were made off.

What we need to realize is that all the major advances that have made life as we know it today- Medicine, Technology, Science – had its origins in systematic reasoning, logical reflection, and a genuine desire to improve. We cannot progress by throwing half baked ideological axes to sculpt imaginary greatness.

Meanwhile, as Modern Surgeons in India protest against this arbitrary and unscientific development, let us listen to what an inspiring person who will be chairing a session at the prestigious meeting of the Association Of Surgeons Of India has to say about dead bodies:

“A dead body is not really dead. The hair grows after death. The nails grow. One can make a dead body walk by the use of proper technique. There are ways by which one can enter a dead body as pure soul and make it walk”

I am certainly not against the earnest yearnings of human beings to search for ultimate meaning and existential freedom, but is this the path to Modern medical glory?

I am not sure. But maybe I am outdated. Must move with the times.

(Jimmy Mathew)

Dr Jimmy

I am a Doctor, Writer and Science Communicator. I am a member of Info- Clinic, and have written a few books. This site features my blog posts and stories. Thank you for visiting. ഞാൻ എഴുതാൻ ഇഷ്ടമുള്ള ഉള്ള ഒരു ഡോക്ടർ ആണ് . നിങ്ങളുടെ താത്പര്യത്തിന് നന്ദി .