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Dr K K Aggarwal

The spiritual prescription “I am sorry”

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Two hardest words for a doctor to say: “I’m sorry.” Most defence lawyers counsel doctors to not apologize to patients. Their view is that if you say you’re sorry for something, you are implicitly taking some degree of responsibility for whatever has happened. In other words, you are pleading guilty. The complainant’s lawyers may use a doctor’s apology to the maximum extent possible to show the doctor knew what they did was wrong. The usual approach is deny and defend. But,

  • Apologizing after a medical error is the humane thing to do.
  • Patients often sue simply because it’s the only way to find out what went wrong.
  • Erecting a wall of silence is “enough to make someone very angry. And it’s awfully easy for an angry person to find a lawyer who will listen to them. At that point, it’s too late to say sorry.
  • Over 35 states in the USA have passed laws prohibiting doctors’ apologies from being used against them in court (apology laws).
  • By promptly disclosing medical errors and offering earnest apologies and fair compensation, one can hope to restore integrity to dealings with patients, make it easier to learn from mistakes and dilute anger that often fuels lawsuits.

Apology, the spiritual answer

  • The word ‘sorry’ is synonymous with apology.
  • To err is human, but to be able to admit one’s error is superhuman.
  • Sorry should be heart-felt and not ego-felt. You should not only say sorry but also appear as being genuinely sorry.
  • Tremendous courage is required when you face the victim of your wrong doing and apologize to him.
  • People who are in harmony with their life and with themselves, find it easy to say ‘I’m sorry’. These people are at peace only after making amends for their wrong doings.
  • The word ‘sorry’ is infused with so much power. Within a fraction of a second, grave mistakes are diluted, and estranged relations are brought to life, animosity and anger are dissolved, misunderstandings are resolved resulting in harmony.
  • To forgive and forget is a common spiritual saying.
  • Remember, we all make mistakes and seek forgiveness form GOD every day.

Every one cannot be a spiritual seeker. In fact majority is not interested in seeking spiritual knowledge and they keep themselves busy in the worldly desires. To become a good seeker one need to acquire many qualities. In Bhagavad Gita Arjuna in a state of disturbed mind sought guidance from Lord Krishna. In Katha Upanishad Nachiketa as a healthy seeker learned the knowledge of life after death from Yama. Katha Upanishad described in detail the qualities of a seeker in Nachiketa. The story goes as under Vajashrava sage performed a sacrifice in which he was required to give away all his worldly possessions. His son Nachiketa saw that the cows given in the donations were all old. Such charity was not going to give his father any merits. Feeling disturbed by the inappropriateness of his father s observance of the sacrifice Nachiketa asked to whom was he given. The sage ignored him twice but on third asking the irritated sage said in anger Unto Yama I give thee. Whereupon Nachiketa went to the abode of Yama and finding him absent waited there for three days and nights. Yama on his return offered to grant him three wishes. Nachiketa wished the following 1. To be allowed to return to his father alive and that his father not be angry with him 2. To be instructed about fire sacrifice 3. To be given knowledge about life after death Yama granted the first wish immediately. In answer to Nachiketa s second question Yama named performance of a special fire sacrifice after Nachiketa. Before answering the third question Yama tested Nachiketa offering him all sorts of worldly pleasures instead but Nachiketa insists. And then Yama taught him about life after death. The properties of true seeker therefore are 1. Righteousness and truthfulness Nachiketa did not agree with his father as his fathers act was not based on Dharma. 2. Persistence He waited for three days to meet Yama. 3. Compassion and forgiveness The first boon he asked was to have his father forgiven. 4. Intellectual understanding The fire of knowledge means intellectual understanding. 5. Let go off the desires He let go all his desires and did not get attracted to the worldly offers given by the Yama. Only after that he qualified to receive the knowledge of soul and become a true seeker. Disclaimer The views expressed in this write up are my own .