Matters Of The Heart

What cannot be cured must be endured, right? Ideally, the reverse should also hold true–what can be cured must not be, or at least need not be, endured–in any case, certainly not if one is fortunate enough to be able to afford the cure.

But then the times we live in are far from ideal. A study conducted by doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences tried to look into reasons behind cases of non-compliance with pediatric heart surgery. The results, though largely along expected lines, paint a grim picture nonetheless.

Apparently, the doctors interviewed parents of 405 children with congenital heart disease who had been advised to undergo cardiac surgery at the AIIMS. A follow-up after 1 year revealed that only 44% of the girls in the cohort had undergone surgery as against 70% of the boys, revealing a distinct and all-too-familiar gender bias.

“Female gender is an important determinant of noncompliance with pediatric cardiac surgery. Deep-seated social factors underlie this gender bias,” the study conducted by Dr Sivasubramanian Ramakrishnan and Dr Anita Saxena from AIIMS’ department of cardiology, said. (Click to read more)

On the face of it, the study, or at least the article quoting the study, lacks comprehensiveness.The article mentions, almost in passing, that economic factors contributed to non-compliance, as did the educational background of the parents. And also that younger children, as in those with older siblings, tended to skip the surgery. Everybody knows that much–the question is, HOW MUCH exactly do these factors contribute?  My guess is that the article-writer erroneously tried to skim what he thought was unimportant data. My attempts to find the actual report on the net were not fruitful.

And then, given the seemingly small cohort, it might just be possible that at the time of the study, families of the girl-patients simply happened to be poorer than usual. I never studied statistics after high school, but I do seem to remember that to make plausible generalizations one must study a reasonably large group, and I am not sure if the cohort in the study is large enough.

Nevertheless, some findings which the article does quote are interesting. For instance, 62% of the parents of girl patients were worried that the post-operative scar on the chest would dampen the girl’s matrimonial prospects, whereas only 2% of the parents of boy patients had similar concerns.

Now,  parents are within their rights to nurse such concerns as long as they get their girls operated upon. Since the compliance rate in the case of girls is 44%, it can only mean that at least some of their parents get the surgery done despite being worried about the scar. What about the rest?

How many ‘worried’ parents skipped the surgery?Of those, how many could not really afford the surgery? (Excusable to a large extent. At worst they could be accused of not trying hard enough to raise the required money. That again might be difficult to prove, so they must be given the benefit of doubt.) More specifically, how many parents did not get their girls operated upon despite being able to afford it, simply to not dampen her matrimonial prospects?

Those parents cannot but know that without surgery their girl is not likely to live long enough to get married. If they get her operated upon, she will probably survive to the age of ‘marriageability’ and they will have on their hands a girl  with a scar running down her chest. And just imagine how difficult getting her married will be, considering that marrying off a perfectly scarless girl is such a daunting task. She might even have to remain unmarried all her life, and isn’t that fate worse than death?

So wouldn’t she be better off dying ‘honourably’, albeit early, from an untreated heart condition, than ‘dishonourably’ as a spinster ? And aren’t they, the parents, actually doing their daughter–not to mention themselves–a favour by just letting her be? That they also save a couple of lakhs of rupees ( my guesstimate) in the bargain is quite beside the point. So what if she is their own flesh and blood, that in living on she might contribute to and benefit the society in myriad ways–isn’t marriage the be all and end all for girls in our great Indian culture ?

These same parents would see it fit to spend any amount on expensive dental procedures(apart from the ubiquitous braces) to give their daughter the perfect smile, which will be worth every buck (pun intended) at the time of groom-hunting.

These same parents wouldn’t think twice before taking her to an expensive cosmetic dermatologist to treat her acne scars. The money they spend will pay them rich dividends if their daughter’s flawless skin is able to attract a rich guy.

They will teach her to drive, send her to attend a high-end business school, allow her to wear western clothes–because these essentially reflect the preferences of ‘modern’ grooms which are changing rapidly with the times.

They will do all of these to boost her chances in the marriage market, but they will shy away from getting her to undergo life-saving surgery because it will scar her chest and quite possibly ruin her matrimonial prospects. All they will do is hope and pray that ailment will vanish by divine intervention. Too bad if it won’t.

Coming back to the report, note that only 2% parents of boy-patients have any such concerns about the scar on his chest affecting his marital prospects in distant future. A boy is a boy after all, scar or no scar. As long as he goes on to do well enough to earn decently, what’s a little scar on the chest. Won’t it be hidden under his clothes for the most part anyway?

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4 Responses to Matters Of The Heart

  1. Fem says:

    Ten thousand thundering typhoons! Is there no end to this nonsense?!

  2. biwo says:

    Heartbreaking but expected.
    It’s in the same league as Sweety killing herself because she did not want her parents to be “dishonored” by her failed marriage.

    Sometimes, I wonder if it will ever end. I read your post about female foeticide earlier and was inclined to agree with Fem, that perhaps it is better not be born female if you have parents like these.

    Am done reading all your posts now and what I time I had! 🙂

    Good night!

    • Thanks for taking the time to read all my posts Biwo, and I am so glad you liked them. It’s been a pleasure reading your insightful comments. I do hope to see you here more often 🙂
      Have a great day!

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