I have been in Mumbai in the situation it finds itself in at present. I have been in the forefront of a disaster management team (to flatter a rag-tag army of residents, nurses, ward-boys and Superintendents in a Hospital) when the Babri Masjid riots took place in 1992, and, not much later, when the Bombay Stock Exchange and Air India were blown up.

I saw from close quarters how barbaric people can be in the headwinds of the irrationality of collectivism (often religion). I am talking of general wholesale slaughter of any person of a community if he made the mistake of being seen. It cut both ways, and this was doubly unfortunate during the Babri Masjid riots.

I wonder, upon learning that the poor little innocent boy who shot a few people in the railway station (the name changed from Victoria Terminus to the more elegant-sounding and hip CST), wants to live. Poor baby! How can you not want to?
I was thinking if I were the surgeon operating on him (assuming he had major gunshot wounds-which he had not), wouldn’t I have been tempted to let my knife slip near a major vessel and see some major bleeding, thereby causing, if not death, definitely major morbidity?

I would well be tempted, truth to tell. I would have controlled my temptation by telling myself, “He is precious to the country for what secrets he will reveal and your job is to heal, not to kill”. A moment after I think this, I am reminded of the Afzal Mahmoods of the world who got escorted and released by a rat-faced Indian Foreign Minister when Taliban terrorists hijacked an Indian plane to Kandahar.

I am happy I am not treating this dear little kid. I would have actually wrung his neck with my bare hands. Forget the knife (I cannot commit surgical murder-for that I expect to be paid), but with my bare hands, I would have loved to pinch his jugulars and lovingly choke his larynx. A ‘thank you for visiting India’ on behalf of the hundreds of people killed and maimed by him and his friends.

Nevertheless, I wonder: “What is the duty of a doctor to the enemy in times of war?”
I know the textbook answer. I am not sure how real it is. Especially in this kind of war.

33 responses to “SAVING THE TERRORIST

  1. i have faced the same when there were gujarat riots and given the choice i would have done the same … twisted the little bastard’s neck gladly!!

  2. Interesting viewpoint. Its very easy to write in textbooks the Hippocrates answer and so hard to actually believe in it when u see all this happening in front of ur eyes and to have the opportunity to harm the perpetrator.

  3. Nevertheless, I wonder: “What is the duty of a doctor to the enemy in times of war?”

    Maim him so bad he turns a vegetable and remains incapable of even wiping his own soil.

  4. I hate violence and cannot kill an insect without feeling bad for it but these guys, I won’t think for a moment before killing them.I second maami’s view as far as the duty of a doctor is concerned.

  5. All I can say, Doc, is I would vote you innocent of any crime if I sat on your jury after you’d throttled him.

  6. Hmm..i have a lesson in my English text book called the enemy which narrates the story of a Jap doc during WWII.

    Hmm…you can always save him and make sure while he recovering to ask him why he did etc etc get the info and put it on the web.

  7. Hmm. Nice poser. And nice thoughts, really.

  8. I am sure a lot of people are feeling torn between extreme emotions….

    Some of mine are expressed at:

  9. R-Doc

    Interesting as that link is, I am sceptical of such vividly written news articles so quickly after an incident. It makes a nice dramatic story but is is true? Who knows?

    I would bet my bottom dollar that you will not kill patient in your care, no matter how you feel. You are funny but you are no Harold Shipman.

    Some of us are unfortunate enough to have suffered huge losses in our lives and to have endured hardship that is hard to imagine for those, who have had more sheltered lives. Knowing how to cope with the greater situation keeping the personal loss in the background or for private moments is the mark of a human being. How would turning into a beast redeem us from sordidness? (If all too cryptic, save for when we meet and talk in person, Doc!)

    Kipling’s mushy but sensible poem is one of my favourites in crises.

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

  10. As much as my blood boils after this incident, i would not murder him. This is not what we Indians do.
    The law should take its course, and we as citizens should keep pushing to make sure that these people get the proper punishment, which would be nothing less than death.

  11. Interesting catch 22
    he is too precious to die but too undeserving to live

    doc, tell me…
    r we really at war, technically we arent
    that is what a low intensity conflict is all about

    but this boy open mouth and an upcoming election and possible defeat of the party in power, reminds me of Goerings quote

    “ Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. …voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

  12. The standard example for an oxymoron in the Wren and Martin used to be “The kind cruelty of a surgeon’s knife”. I’m certain a surgeon’s knife is just as capable of a cruel kindness 😉

    Quips apart, I’m sure it’s finally only ourselves that we have to live with, and ourselves that we’re answerable to when we choose to act.

    When the times comes, I’m sure the doctor’s conscience will get the better of him and compel him to do “the right thing”. Whichever way he chooses to interpret it 😀



  13. I recall a talk by Professor Amartya Sen on rational choice at UCLA in 1985. A story that Prof. Sen used to illustrate his theory of choice has stuck in my mind ever since. The story went like this. Pedro and his gang had captured ten gringos (Americans) and were about to kill them all. Pedro’s friend, a Jesuit priest, happened to visit him just then.

    Extending his gun to the padré, Pedro offered to let nine of the gringos go free, if only the padré would agree to kill any one of the gringos. The priest, having vowed never to kill, faced the dilemma of breaking his vow and killing one of the gringos, or the equally terrifying alternative of being responsible for all the ten to be killed by Pedro.

    After relating the story, Prof. Sen asked [probably not verbatim], “What’s the rational thing for the priest to do? Kill one gringo or let Pedro shoot them all?”. A booming voice from the audience quipped, “Simple, take the gun and kill Pedro!”. The voice, of course, was that of Professor Armen Alchian, “…the founder of the “UCLA tradition” in economics”, a tradition that reflects Ayn Rand’s objectivism.

    In this situation, doc, I have no hesitation in recommending a few Bloody Mary’s before approaching the operating table, and then send that rotten scoundrel to the 72 virgins waiting for him.

  14. Great post! What horrifies most of us is the senselessness of the whole thing.

    And how powerful the indoctrination these guys seem to have got must be, to allow them to snuff out life with such insouciance. Reminds me of a line in Julius Caesar ” Mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quartered by the hands of war, all pity choked with custom of fell deed.” When the poison spouted by the preachers is so strong that a person’s innate sense of good and evil is turned 180 degrees, that is time to get worried. And time to seriously question why religion- any religion at all – is required.

  15. Oops, but wasn’t he here to die already ?

  16. Oh! No No No! I won’t kill him. That would be too quick. But if I would be in a situation, the knife might slip somewhere between his legs and Oops, something might get cut there.
    The guy would be alive but would always pray that someone kills him.

  17. Good post. I can’t believe he wanted to live. I can’t believe he thought that he will live after all this. Personally, I feel terrorists should be shot at sight. I am not for war and I am not for killing people. But people who are sick at their brains and who cannot be safely treated in a mental hospital, should be simply killed. It is just like the mercy killing, just that in this case we show no mercy. I also feel we shouldnt wait till the terrorist shows up in the hospital. We have to start blowing out the terrorist camps wherever they are.

  18. Everyone:
    Thank you, really, for wonderful comments. I am very happy to have you all here, and enhancing the (questionable) value of the post.
    I learned things from you, as I usually do, by caringly reading your every word.
    Please take this message as a personal one, whether it be Shefaly or TRF or anyone else who commented here.
    As politicians are lacking here, let me be one and say this: “I love you all”

  19. Vot vot! You won’t leave the poor little brainwashed b*st*rd alone for the rest of us to stone to death, slowly and in public?

    Spare a thought for us, dear man. I’d want to get the b*st*rds who bankroll these nitwits and slowly screw them – badly – in public over a month long period.

    But – the greater punishment should be for the seed bearers of hatred. Now them I’d love to see on my operating table. HAH.

  20. Could this rediff report be true? How come no-one else has this story???

  21. I would expect you to treat him as a doctor should and then when you get into your non daktari clothes to go back and inflict damage enough to keep him barely alive and writhing in pain and repeat from step 1 all over again as and when he recovers.

  22. Doc, no matter how heated one may feel as a person, playing and being a doctor is not just a noble role but an ingrained philosophy. Ethics is a monkey on the back I was told.

  23. doc now that the fm is the hm we can expect more words to be banned such as terror, terrorism, victims of terrorism etc

    Ps the boy does not to live anymore

  24. errata want to

  25. Thanks for your views and comments, guys! I am in a bit of a rush, so please don’t mind my not answering you individually.

  26. Shubhobroto Ghosh

    Please read this article at :

    Doctors Treat Detainees With Same Respect, Concern As Other Patients
    By Rudi Williams
    American Forces Press Service

    WASHINGTON, July 19, 2002 – Navy Dr. (Lt.) Sandra A. Schaffranek had a bit of the jitters when she arrived at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, about three months ago to treat detainees at Camp Delta. It didn’t take long for the nervousness to subside.
    Even though some of the detainees have threatened to kill Americans, she’s now at ease when treating the potentially dangerous patients.

    “The military police staff has been phenomenal as far as providing safety and security for us,” she said. “We’ve been assured that safety and security comes first. So if there is ever a question in our minds, most of us will step back and readdress the issue before proceeding with the initiation of medical treatment.”

    Schaffranek is one of the physicians who provide medical care for the captured enemy combatants from 39 different countries. About 80 nurses, medical corpsmen and other medical service support staff help with the history-making tasks. The initial advanced medical party numbered more than 100 personnel.

    The potential danger posed by the patients doesn’t change the way doctors and other medical professionals treat them, she pointed out.

    “We all took the Hippocratic oath,” the doctor said. “I treat them with the same respect in medical care that I would any of my patients back in the states.” The only difference is security and safety primarily come before medical care, she said.

    “We have two different types of medical care that are provided for the detainees,” Schaffranek pointed out. “One is the fleet hospital form for inpatient care. There are two physicians and a consultant there. We also have two physicians that run the Camp Delta program, which is basically like an outpatient clinic.”

    The fleet hospital is enclosed within Camp Delta, where the detainees are held.

    Detainees receive excellent medical care, the doctor said. “They have more one-on-one attention and availability than most other patients have,” she noted. The care has been a godsend for many of the men because doctors have discovered a variety of conditions, including two cases of active tuberculosis, which have been cured.

    Doctors have detected numerous cases of latent TB, Schaffranek noted. Many detainees come from countries with high TB exposure rates, she said. The bacteria conceivably could have been present and dormant for years.

    “In that case, we treat them to prevent reactivation, just as we would do for our patients in the states,” she said. “They’ve been treated long enough that they’re no longer considered infectious.”

    Schaffranek said she wasn’t at the camp hospital when most of the detainees with battle injuries arrived. “But when I arrived on the island, some of them were still hospitalized due to bone infections, which are oftentimes difficult to treat and require months of intravenous antibiotics.”

    Some detainees arrived with infected amputated limbs and some had to have amputations. They were given prostheses. Eyeglasses were provided for those needing them. Requests for hearing aids are under consideration.

    She said detainees with serious medical conditions are treated by specialists who rotate through as needed. For instance, she related, one TB patient had a neurological problem that required surgery. “We were able to bring a neurosurgeon to the island to help treat him,” she said. “We’re constantly trying to figure out how to meet any demands that come up.”

    Though she missed the acute incidents, Schaffranek said she’s seeing the chronic phases of illnesses. But, she reviewed the patients’ records and determined that all did well — some evidence is most detainees admitted with battle injuries have been released back into the general population.

    When detainees complain about a stomachache, headache and other conditions, Navy corpsmen visit their living units to check out the problem.

    “If there is no medical emergency, we do like we do for our active duty folk (administer) over-the-counter medication to help alleviate the problem,” Schaffranek said. “If the corpsman thinks it’s something that needs a higher level of care, we’ll bring the detainee to our clinic for an evaluation.”

    Sick call for active duty service members lasts for three to four hours, but sick call for detainees “runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she said. Most complaints are addressed within 24 hours after registration with the guards.

    Specialists who come to the island to care for active duty service members and their dependents oftentimes treat detainees, she noted.

    “Being here is actually a phenomenal case for international medicine, because we have seen malaria that has become reactivated, typhoid fever, and multiple cases of leishmaniasis that’s transmitted by sand fly bites, and several cases of hepatitis B and C — none are active, but the men had been exposed to the virus,” Schaffranek said.

    Navy Dr. (Lt.) Sandra A. Schaffranek said she, other doctors and medical care professionals treat detainees at Camp Delta on Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the same respect in medical care that they would patients back in the U.S. Photo by Rudi Williams
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  27. Actually, I feel enormous pity for the “terrorists”

    If some news reports are true, they are young kids from desperately impoverished towns in the general Pak-India / Afghan border area, who are recruited by the Real Terrorists – the moneybags funding hatred.

    Heck if I saw my family starving every day, I’d be tempted by Rs 1.5 lakh and sign up to whatever cause pays!

    These are young young kids with malleable brains – and have nothing to look forward to anyway. Easy pickings. We’re targeting our ire at the wrong people here.

  28. Parallel stories: the child soldiers of the Congo region. I’d hardly call them “terrorists”. They were forced to kill their parents at age 4,5,6… and then join whatever stupid “army” fed them next.

    Terrorists or poverty?

    My call: poverty caused by greed.

  29. Hmm, I am pretty late here. But better late than never. My grandfather was a doctor in the army and he has been to war. He has treated enemy soldiers too. That was his duty. Every human being has a right to medical treatment and after that let the law take over. However, the enemy may not feel the same. It doesn’t matter. One needs to keep to one’s own ethics, however great the temptation.

  30. ahumanbean wrote:

    Actually, I feel enormous pity for the “terrorists” … I’d be tempted by Rs 1.5 lakh and sign up to whatever cause pays … Terrorists or poverty?

    There are about 300 million people in India alone, who are below the poverty line. Are you suggesting that, if they were to murder another 300 million of their neighbors who are richer than them, or less evil, forcibly occupy their houses, including your and mine, the law enforcement authorities should take pity and exonerate them?

    Another small point. Who paid this fellow 150,000 rupees? What are the objectives of his puppet master? If the puppet master’s aim were to eradicate poverty, why didn’t he give the money to this poor bloke so he could start, say, a motor winding business, and employ a few of his poverty stricken friends?

  31. TRF:
    Thanks for a great comment.
    Poverty merely provides the water for evil to fish in.
    I understand what you are saying, but destroying a monster like Kasav: would it be unethical?

  32. @ Rational Fool – I meant “IF I were dirt poor, and saw no future for myself in the little forgotten village in the Punjab/wherever region…I’d be tempted” Hypothetical, not literal.

    Look at these gun-toting jokers. They barely have a moustache between them…easy pickings (yes, the water) for the evil ( moneyed hate-bearers) to fish in ( recruit into their own brand of hatred).

    As media is so unreliable, I’m not sure I can prove that Rs 1.5 lakh was paid but hey, it sure is easy to buy that story. Think about it: what else will motivate babyfaced jobless youth? Political speeches or some bread to eat – the colour of that food ( betterment or hatred-coloured) hardly matters.

    The *atmosphere* in which these babyfaced jokers were recruited matters…which is why David Davidar and many others have expressed concern over the millions of jobless youth in India.

    My stand today on how the doctors should treat these guys is: treat them so they get better – that’s the doctors’ job. It is up to the judicial system however imperfect it is – to decide their fate after that. They may even spill some beans 🙂

    In the meanwhile – no-one’s talking about the horrific drowning deaths caused by Cyclone Nisha on the Tamil Nadu coast last week. No candlelight vigils for all the women killed/tortured for dowry last week. No tears for pets/children/old people abused last week…just some perspective!

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