Doctor disgrace and my crying shame!

Here's a scam that affects health and lives of all Indians


Arshad Gulam Moh`d | April 27, 2010

In the cacophony of the IPL saga, a more serious scam has just surfaced. More serious because it involves health and lives of more than 1.3 billion Indians. In terms of money it does not match up to the IPL rip off, but its effects, fallout and ramifications are much wider and more somber. The Medical Council of India (MCI) chief and two of his cohorts were arrested today by CBI on charges of corruption. This is sure to bring down the prestige of MCI by quite a few notches, as will it bring shame and self-disgust to every ethical practitioner of medicine.
The same disgraced person was forced to vacate president-ship of MCI in 2001. He was indicted by the Delhi High Court on charges of corruption and thus was forced to resign from the top post. He subsequently manoeuvred his way back into the council, and by internal election, rose to occupy the highest position again. It's disgusting to note that in spite of knowing his background, his home State Council put him in MCI, and the Council members elected him to the highest post. The self-loathing I feel is aggravated when I think of the fact that those who elected him are practicising, MCI-registered doctors, my own community of angels in white coats. All educated, each one of them having taken the Hippocratic Oath to serve patients at whatever cost.  They sent a tainted, disgraced colleague back to the national body that governs the ethics of the profession! And Ketan's cabal in the MCI, which was still very much around, willingly manoeuvred the elections to get him back as head of the body, pat within a few years of his indictment.
This brings us to a more serious issue: those MCI members who elected him to be their chief the second time round are still holding on to the council membership. Can we, therefore, trust these persons with an important statutory body? Can we expect them to enforce the aims and objectives for which MCI was constituted? Is there any guarantee that Ketan will not, in a short span, use the same route ascend to the MCI presidentship again?
The two important functions of the MCI are to enforce a code of conduct in the medical profession and maintain the highest standards of quality in medical education. It is a tragedy of the highest order that the body that is constituted by statute to oversee ethical values in the medical profession is itself mired in sleazy and unethical practices. With mushrooming of medical colleges, both private as well as public, and commercialisation of medical education, the MCI has become all-powerful in granting/withdrawing recognition to various medical institutions. This also has opened up newer avenues of corruption and political manipulations.
Suddenly the posts of the State Councils and Medical Council of India have become much sought-after and unfortunately even lucrative. Then, the nominated members in various councils are always in numerical majority vis-à-vis the elected members of the medical profession. The element of commerce in medical education has brought in lots of money. All these factors put together have made the MCI a fertile ground for bribery and fraud.
Most of the extraneous legislations became applicable to medical profession because the internal self-regulatory mechanisms failed to deliver. The Consumer Protection Act is one such example. MCI, which is the highest self-regulatory authority in India, cannot be seen as a hub of unethical practices. Its integrity, uprightness and purity cannot be seen as below par.
The MCI chief’s arrest on corruption charges has sullied that image. And unless a thorough purge is effected in the Council, it will be well nigh impossible to repair that image.
In the meanwhile, all ethically inclined physicians feel ashamed today. They hang their heads in shame today.

[The author is a Mumbai-based practising physician.]



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