July 08, 2010

Accepting gifts: Docs ask why they're singled out

Tired of being the only ones being named and shamed for corrupt practices such as accepting gifts and hospitality from the pharmaceutical industry, prominent doctors sought legislation for "all stakeholders", including the pharma industry, involved in bribing of doctors. The doctors questioned why they alone were being targeted and made liable in such cases.

The issue of involving all stakeholders in the problem of doctors being bribed was discussed at a seminar on the occasion of Doctors' Day on Thursday. The seminar, titled 'Medical Ethics: Where Are We Going', was organized by Batra Hospital in association with the Heal Foundation and Fox Mandal Little, a law firm that handles cases related to the medical profession.

Dr S K Sarin, chairperson of the board of governors appointed to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the main speaker at the seminar, said that he personally believed that delegates attending continuing medical education (CME) conferences ought to pay for themselves as that would make them more serious about attending, listening and participating in the lectures. Dr Sarin added that a working group had been formed to go into the question of medical ethics.

Dr Sanjeev Bagai, CEO of Batra Hospital, pointed out the lack of any course on medical ethics in medical education in the country. He called for a consensus on guidelines regulating doctors which could be "rational, easy to follow, practical and easy to implement". Dr Bagai suggested that in the matter of funding, associations of doctors be given priority over individual doctors.

Sudhir Mishra of Fox Mandal Little questioned why the regulation on bribery of doctors through gifts and hospitality was affecting only doctors without considering other parties. "MCI has no direct control over the pharma sector. The health ministry needs to bring in legislation for the pharma sector," said Mishra.

Earlier, acting on some complaints MCI received on the issue of pharma industry bribing doctors, when the council sought names of doctors from the pharmaceutical companies, none were forthcoming. The council had then approached the health ministry to empower the Drugs Controller General of India to take action against companies that induced doctors to violate the law. However, with the pharma industry being allowed to self regulate and with the ministry bringing in no legislation to tackle their role in bribing doctors, the companies continue the practice, safe in the knowledge that the current regulation would only affect the doctors and not the company bribing the doctor.

Link: Original Article

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