The surgical relative

While doctors have to deal with patients’ anxieties, those accompanying them can be a greater cause for concern. Here are eight kinds of them

Medicine is a profession where the patient is considered to be the centre of our universe. We design protocols, tailor surgical approaches, customize therapy, plan treatment, conduct reviews, perform audits, and get feedback to be able to improve our quality of care for our patients. We’ve learned how to do all of this. We know how to handle these aspects.

However, there is no formal training on how to deal with the relative, that individual who accompanies most patients. Relatives come as solitary figures of one or in contingents of up to five, and they can make the life of a doctor either effortless or exasperating. As it’s that time of the year where we sit back and reminisce about the past 12 months, sometimes making lists, I decided to carry out a broad categorization of the relatives I’ve encountered so far.

The Trustor:

This kind usually has blind faith in a doctor. “We will do whatever you say,” is something they keep repeating. They don’t argue, they don’t question; they keep nodding. They manifest the best result for their patient. “Don’t worry, doctor, nothing will happen!” they say to bolster you if you show some concern about the difficulty of the case. They wish you good luck before you walk into surgery and they greet you with a broad smile when you come out to tell them how it went. It’s the best kind of relative for a doctor to have. Unfortunately, it is also the rarest.

The Projector:

They take it upon themselves to talk about the patient’s complaints irrespective of whether the patient wants to. “Mr. Patel, has surgery completely relieved your symptoms?” “Yes, doctor, my pain has completely gone and I am able to do everything very comfortably!” The relative: “Arre, but doctor, he had a headache 2 days ago. His hands have been shaking a little too.” Looking at their patient, they continue, “Also ask him about that itch near your bum you were talking about!” Because they stay with the patient and don’t want any grumbling or complaining to surface at home, they insist that everything be discussed in front of the doctor – and even invent a few symptoms along the way.

The Doubter:

This is the kind that gets you to dig your palm deep into your eyes. “But what if you’re not able to remove the tumour completely? What if the disc you fix comes out again? What if she doesn’t get better after the operation? What if there is a complication? How many such surgeries have you done before? Will you have someone as a backup in case something goes wrong? What if there is an infection?” All valid questions to which answers must be given – but the doubter asks them on loop after they have been copiously answered and re-answered.

The Fact Checker:

“But last time you said the chance of any complication is 1–2%, and this time you’re saying it’s about 4–5%. But last time you said surgery will take about 3–4 hours; now you’re saying it might take 5–6 hours. Last time you said we’d be discharged in a week. but today you’re saying you’ll keep him for only 5 days!” To this kind, you must either surrender or explain to them that the human body is not a constant. These are just numbers. They mean almost nothing. They are provided to give a rough idea about the way things might pan out. Nothing is absolute.

The Scroller:

This is completely different from the Googler who has researched every aspect of the patient’s illness and is prepared with a barrage of questions. The Googler is no more a category because it is almost every patient and relative. The scroller, on the contrary, is usually a teenager or young adult accompanying an elder family member. They can never stop scrolling on their phone and don’t lift their head up during the entire consultation. “Tanya… Tanya… Tanya!” I called out thrice after I had taken a full history and examined her grandmom, trying to get her attention to explain what needed to be done further. It really is an addiction. I feel sad for them.

The Bargainer:

This kind is exclusive to our country and probably even some places in the Middle East. This variety makes you believe that you are practicing in a baniya shop instead of the holy grail of a hospital. They ask you what the surgery will cost, you quote an approximate amount, and pat comes an instant reply: “Can it not be a little less?” – usually with the nod of the head and a shake of a hand that indicates that money is a concern. With the magnanimity of your heart and the ability to prune things a little, depending on the case in front of you, you may be able to quote a slightly lower figure, only to hear, “That’s all? I’m sure you can help a little extra!” – with the head doing an even more acute tilt. You can either smile with serenity or get frustrated because doing this transaction – this part of the conversation – is not your job. I prefer to smile.

The Freeloader:

Once the patient has finished their consultation, things have wound up, and everyone is nearly out the door, the relative suddenly interjects with “Doctor, I’m also having some pain in the neck here, can you just quickly examine me there and write out some medicines I can take?” For this kind, I simply grin and do what is asked without grudging them or imagining that I work at a ‘buy one, get one’ setup. One can even run into a slightly more extreme version of this kind at social gatherings, where they will smoothly lead you to a corner, get you to check them out, and even have you WhatsApp them a prescription over a drink. These too you deal with lovingly, as if this was your calling. After all, this is what we enjoy doing the most – taking care of people.

The Ass (not really a category, more of a one-of-a-kind specimen):

“Doctor saab, after your operation on my wife, we have travelled the whole world in one year. I thank you greatly for such a miraculous recovery! Now that there are no more places left to see, we are repeating many of them!” said the husband after I finished a thorough check-up to note that everything was okay with his wife. They were directed to pay at the reception, which is usually the practice. He headed there and returned to my clinic while I was in the midst of seeing another patient. “You have increased your consultation charges by Rs. 500 from last year?” he asked, with beady eyes. I held my head and gently rubbed my forehead. Sometimes, even the best of us have nothing left to say.


18 Comments on “The surgical relative
  • Varshesh Shah says:


  • Dr. gurudutt satyendranath bhat says:

    @drmazda my fav comeback too.after I check the freeloader sale hai ek pey ek free with a wide smile on my face.Not that my sarcasm is heard or acknowledged.

  • Jasmin says:

    Ahahaha this was hilarious 🤣 have been a caregiver to several elder family members while they were in hospital and I know which category I fall in 🤣🤣🤣 and maybe spill over a little into one or two others.
    You missed one tho (the questioner – the one who may have valid but numerous (if not too many) medically related and mostly relevant questions but who gets easily frustrated by monosyllabic answers) that’s definitely me 🙈🙈🙈
    Please do one one types of doctors also … would love an inside perspective 😂

  • Leah Gwangwa says:

    Ah….Dr Mazda, you made me laugh, yet again with your perspective!! I just love your response to the last category’!😂😂😂You are one truly multi-talented human being Dr Mazda!

    Thank you for sharing these pieces throughout the year; they really brighten my days! Enjoy the holidays and here’s wishing you and yours a sterling 2023!!

  • Mrs Sunaina N Saraf says:

    Hello sir

    Wow what an analysis of relative
    Super true & well said

    Sir ive always been a trustor & you know
    very well 😊
    Keep doing the good work
    Mrs sunaina saraf

  • Sharmila Agarwal says:

    It’s so True dr Turel , we are all these people in our consults Hats off

  • Avinash Karnik says:

    Dear Dr. Mazda
    I thought you are good doctor at diagnosis but this article confirms that you are good at analysing the relatives of the patients too that too with clinical expertise

  • Mahashweta Biswas says:

    🤣🤣🤣🤣super hilarious & you were bang on about relatives behaviour. So true.

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article so very well written & apt


  • Marzian Mowji says:

    There is one more kind of family member. The idiot Know-it-all.

    Recently a friend’s mother needed surgery of the hip. After the Doctor examined the patient and all the test results, he informed them the procedure he will have to follow to correct the problem. Instantly the relative started argueing and telling the Doctor how to go about the operation because in his opinion his way was better. The Doctor very politely asked if he was also a doctor and he said he was a wholesaler in grains and spices.

    These are the kind of fools that inhabit the earth. I felt sorry for the Doctor.

    There should be a rule in hospitals that patient can only be accompanied by one responsible family member who the patient is comfortable with.

  • Rita singh says:

    Dr. as I have been under ur treatment acouple of years back,a am happy that neither me nor any of my relatives ever questioned u or any doctor. Whenever we were informed of anything our answer was,u r the expert, do what u feel should b done. Thank God ,u think they r the best kind.I am happy today none of us bothered u much.

  • Burzin Panthaki says:

    Lovely and hilarious piece Dr Mazda
    Keep writing.

  • Martha says:

    Wow, I’m a “trustor” care-giver. 😂😂😂
    Thank you very much Dr. Mazda for the article that makes us know who we are.🙏🙏🙏🙏

  • Shazneen says:

    Totally loved it…
    Hilarious & absolutely relate to the gelagada, sadly some in my family members could be categorised as doubters and freeloaders.
    Always a pleasure reading your light-hearted observations.

  • Tasneem says:

    Enjoyed the article. The earth is full of varied people; a small sample in the hospital. It embodies the diversity of human beings . A fun article .Thank u

  • Anjali Patki says:

    Absolutely hilarious…ha ha ha….had an excellent laugh …with full credit to your keen observation….fun read on a relaxing Sunday morning

  • Vipul shah says:

    Hello dear dr Mazda sir

    Your versatility on writing skill proved once again by your humorous piece on Relatives behavior pattern by dividing in different categories in your own style….
    You may try one day on suspense thriller medical subject to keep on your reader & well wisher for edge of seat thriller from your might pen 😉🤣

  • Dr. Divya Shetty says:

    This is such a typical doctor article!!! The love of classification and methods on how to deal with the general public. Love the humour!!!

  • Anuradha says:

    Hey Mazda, your naughty sense of humour is at work once again. Will keep us busy classifying ourselves under some category or the other. Fun article this!


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