The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ethics leash on errant doctors

After the Clinical Establishment Act got tough with doctors, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has proposed a new set of rules designed to curb malpractice among medical practitioners.

Predictably, the new set of rules — framed after thousands of complaints about violation of medical ethics and rampant corruption among physicians poured into the MCI offices — is being opposed tooth and nail by a powerful doctors’ lobby.

The new rules aim at stopping doctors from “misleading people” by advertising their clinics, professional skills and qualifications.

They stipulate a mandatory display of registration certificates and prescribing generic names of drugs, instead of brand names. Doctors are debarred from advertising their professional skills to lure more patients and asked not indulge in publicity through the print media.

A doctor will face action for receiving gifts, commission or any benefits from companies. Doctors have to maintain medical records of patients for at least three years.

The Council has also stated that any doctor found guilty of violating the rules shall be booked under law and is liable to having his licence cancelled.

One particular complaint that made MCI sit up was that there were too many doctors prescribing a particular set of medicines available from particular pharmacies. That has goaded the Council into stopping doctors from opening their own pharmacies.

In Calcutta itself, many doctors are known to own pharmacies and quite a few of them work out of chambers adjoining these pharmacies, say officials.

State health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, perceived to be behind the government’s tough stand, welcomed the new set of rules: “The doctors may curse me but I am not going to allow them to see patients inside pharmacies.”

Both the MCI and the state government say they think alike as far as prescribing drugs is concerned.

Like the health minister, who at a meet on Saturday warned doctors against prescribing “unnecessary medicines”, the council has made it clear that doctors must “stop prescribing steroids/psychotropic drugs when there is absolutely no need for it”.

Besides, the onus of maintaining records of patients (for at least three years) has now been put on the shoulders of doctors. Under the new rule, a doctor will have to produce them within 72 hours of being asked.

Doctors will, henceforth, have to prominently display their registration certificates at visiting-rooms.

“This is an extremely important issue,” said Indian Medical Association state chapter president Subir Ganguly. “A large number of quacks are responsible for the bad name that our community has got these days,” he stressed.

The MCI has highlighted corruption prevailing in government medical colleges and hospitals, where doctors are hardly ever present. It warned that it would use its powers to take action against truant doctors.

The government has decided to pitch its weight behind the MCI. “We will help the Council in implementing the rules,” the director of medical education, Chittaranjan Maiti, added.

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