February 28, 2008

Doctors, hospitals can no longer advertise

Doctors and hospitals in the State of Karnataka can no longer advertise their professional services, whether boasting of “world-class services” or promising “freedom” from some debilitating disease.

The Karnataka Medical Council, in an order issued on February 11, has said that “every registered medical practitioner registered with the Karnataka Medical Council or elsewhere and practising in Karnataka, shall abide by the Code of Medical Ethics vide 6.1.1. and 6.1.2. including the institutions. Any violation by an individual/institution will be treated as ‘professional misconduct’ and action will be initiated under Section 15 of the Karnataka Medical Council Act”.

The penalty could range from a warning to de-recognition for a year. Persistent violation could attract permanent de-recognition, which means the medical professional cannot practise anywhere in the world.

Speaking to The Hindu, Chikkananjappa, president of the Karnataka Medical Council, said: “Many hospitals such as Manipal, Sagar Apollo, Wockhardt, Trinity and Ramakrishna Hospital are advertising themselves on a mass scale in newspapers, billboards and road medians.” This was against Sections 6.1.1. and 6.1.2. of the Code of Medical Ethics, according to which doctors cannot publish their photographs, write articles with the intention of luring patients, advertise the hospitals they work in or claim false expertise in areas that they knew nothing about, Dr. Chikkananjappa said.

“Some advertisements even go to the extent of saying that every person above 45 should undergo an angiogram.

It is not necessary as it is merely a test and not a cure for any heart disease. Some others go to the extent of saying “buy one consultation and get another free. Medical profession cannot be marketed,” he said. Nearly 70 notices were sent to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and diagnostic centres for advertising themselves. “Sixty-five consultants turned up and we explained to them the provisions of the law that self-aggrandisement with the ulterior motive of attracting patients was against ethics. They all agreed to not advertise themselves,” he said.

Vishal Bali, CEO of Wockhardt Hospital, told The Hindu, “Extending the order to institutions is not correct. Hospitals worldwide advertise their services, but doctors do not. Not to allow hospitals to advertise is taking it a little too far. As there is so much competition in this sector, how else can we advertise our services?"

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