January 31, 2007

Code of Ethics for Doctors not being Enforced says Health Minister

``It is a fact that the MCI's Code of Ethics is not being enforced at all,'' Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told The Hindu in response to a question on its enforcement. ``It is unethical,'' he added, ``to advertise for cures that have not been tested and scientifically validated. While the Ministry will be happy to assist in validating such claims, we will not allow such advertisements to be made.''

The Medical Council of India, a statutory body regulating the practice of medicine in the country, updated the Code of Ethics Regulations in 2002. The State Medical Councils have since adopted the substantive portions of the code. The question about enforcement of the code has arisen in the background of the media frequently publishing advertisements from medical professionals promoting themselves and their services, endorsing medicines, and promising cures for chronic illnesses.

One problem is that the Council covers only allopathic medical practitioners registered with it, Dr.Kesavankutty Nair, president of the MCI, explains. Further, the Council can only act against complaints brought to it, he notes, citing the Supreme Court guidelines in the matter. Anyone disgruntled with any medical practitioner for advertising or rendering service must make a formal complaint with the State Council, which has to act on it within six months.

The MCI is an appellate body, one that a complainant can approach if he or she is unhappy with the action taken by the State Council, Dr. Nair said. The MCI could then take action against the doctors registered with it.

The Regulations are one way to ensure it. For instance, the ethics code even mentions that the names and signboards displayed by doctors should not be large, though they do not specify the size.

While complaints are necessary to proceed against doctors, it is possible for the State Council to take suo motu cognisance of any offence by a medical professional and issue orders to him or her.

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