The Union health ministry has urged doctors to refrain from consuming alcohol during medical conferences, workshops or continuing medical education meetings where sometimes daytime academic discussions are wrapped up with drinks in the evenings.
Atul Goel, the director-general of health services (DGHS), has said in a letter sent to medical associations across India that health professionals should follow a healthy lifestyle and “alcohol in any form may be avoided” at any such congregations of medics.
Sections of doctors said they welcomed the appeal from the DGHS, saying it acknowledges long-standing concerns about the consumption of alcohol in such conferences. But others have questioned the need for advice to doctors on alcohol.
Goel, a physician tasked with rendering technical advice on all medical and public health matters to the health ministry, cited statistics highlighting the role of alcohol use in non-communicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis or cancers.
He said doctors could “set an example of a good habit” by avoiding alcohol in conferences.
An office-bearer of the IndianMedical Association (IMA), the country’s largest body of doctors, said the letter was tantamount to “moral policing”.
“Doctors are well aware of the possible injurious effects of alcohol — why are we being told about connections between alcohol and NCDs (non-communicable diseases? If this is an important issue, why doesn’t (the DGHS) advise the ministry and Centre to stop the production and sale of alcohol?”
The IMA official said the letter, albeit well-intentioned, appeared to move “beyond official jurisdiction and approached moral policing”.