The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After rap, Buddha lotion for doctors

Calcutta, July 1: After pulling up doctors for their work ethics last week, the chief minister today tried to apply balm on the medical fraternity.

A committee of eminent persons will be set up to deal with complaints of negligence against doctors before police make a move, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at a programme here on Doctors’ Day.

With health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra by his side, Bhattacharjee said the government was opposed to the practice of police moving against doctors — resulting in arrests in most cases — solely on the basis of complaints lodged by patients or their relatives and friends.

“We cannot let this go on any more. How can the police, who are not equipped to check medical negligence, book a doctor under section 304 A of the IPC (for death due to negligence). A new set of rules will safeguard doctors from hasty prosecution and harassment,” Bhattacharjee said.

According to the new policy, the draft of which has been approved by the home and health departments, a panel of eminent citizens, doctors and administrators will be empowered to ascertain negligence, if any, on the part of a doctor before the police acted on complaints against them.

Law minister Nishit Adhikary said the department’s experts are examining various aspects of the new initiative. “This is designed to save doctors from unnecessary harassment,” Adhikary said. Earlier, the chief minister held a meeting with the law minister to discuss the initiative and its introduction at the earliest.

The chief minister’s announcement evoked mixed reaction from different quarters. While senior police officers admitted that at times doctors were hastily arrested, rights groups vehemently opposed it.

Kunal Saha, the man who dragged three eminent doctors to court on charges of negligence and is now part of People for Better Treatment, said: “The chief minister cannot segregate a section of the society on this basis.” He also threatened to move the Supreme Court if the government implemented the policy.

Addressing doctors assembled to observe the day, the chief minister said: “Grievances of relatives are understandable but charging doctors like petty criminals without evidence cannot be justified.”

On a visit to Murshidabad in the wake of a spate of child deaths, the chief minister had ordered prompt punishment against negligent doctors. Referring to Murshidabad today, Bhattacharjee said the government would take action against only those doctors who did not cut short their leave and returned to work despite repeated pleas.

“Our intention is not to go for a witch hunt,” said Bhattacharjee. “We only want to inculcate a sense of duty in those who felt no compunction when they chose to stay away from their posts.”

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