Delhi Wallahs and their telephones - the dangers of smartphone use in surgery
In India it is impossible not to notice the countrywide obsession with phones and technology. The question asked by friends is not ‘what phone do you have?’, but, ‘what smart phone do you have?’!
Of course there is no denying that this is a worldwide phenomenon, but this nation still has 70% of its population living on less than $2 a day (ie. below the UN poverty line). Even in villages and small towns, artel, aircel and vodafone billboards are ubiquitous, and everybody has a phone glued to their ear.
I even have friends with two phones. These people are not big shot CEOs, they are club owners, promoters, travel agents, designers and it is quite comical to watch people ceremoniously place their Samsung AND their iPhone down on the table when we meet!
I had found this all quite funny, and I hadn’t regarded it as any more serious than a rather blatant and showy display of one’s status. That was until I read a Times of India article, entitled: “Doctors admit to taking calls during surgery”. The issue came to the attention of the press after Dr K. K. Aggarwal, founder of healthcare NGO, Heart Care Foundation India, launched a campaign exposing this irresponsible practice.
Dr Aggarwal is a friend’s father and he is a highly renowned heart specialist and health care campaigner in India and a winner of the civilian award, the Padma Shri. His most recent bone of contention with the health care in this country was regarding mobile phones, not the usual radiation concerns, but the fact that surgeons have been using their mobiles in the operating theatre. 90% of nurses and 50% of technicians admitted to answering calls and the study found that 43% of doctors have a high level of stress, anxiety or insecurity when staying away from their phones. Dr Aggarwal tells of phone addiction, ringxiety, Insomnia and nomophobia (the fear of losing a phone), “it is cancer we worry about, but the damage that cell phones is causing could be much bigger”.
Such a pattern is worrisome and it would not surprise me if this was a global pattern, it is just that the regulations in Indian Operating Theatres are perhaps less strict. The rather bleak realisation is that I have noticed my own increasing reliance on my phone since moving here. Lucky I’m not a surgeon I suppose!
Read more about Heart Care Foundation of India’s statistics and findings on his blog: