Health care activist Ravi Duggal speaks to dna on Medical Council of India’s (MCI) bizarre decision to keep doctors’ bodies out of medical code of ethics. Duggal, who is part of the People’s Health Movement, said the move will lead to widespread corruption and have a negative impact on India’s healthcare system.

Why are association of doctors being protected?
The change in code of ethics is a result of new members in MCI. Some of the new members have been advocating the cause of pharma support to association of doctors. With such doctors getting the reins of MCI, they have come
out with obvious reinterpretation of code of ethics and keeping association of doctors out of it.
Today they have managed to keep associations out of the code of ethic. Tomorrow they may come up with a way to save individual doctors too. I am sure that this will not stand in the court of law when challenged.

Is it a deliberate attempt to create loopholes in the code of ethics? Are vested interests involved?
Definitely MCI is trying to create loopholes and attempt to destroy basic code of ethics. In abroad, it is the association of doctors that plays active role in maintaining code of ethics. Even in country like Pakistan, it is the association of doctors that play key role enforcing code of ethics.
It is sad that in the largest democracy, there is no association of doctors to voice the malpractice in the profession. To add to the woes, the MCI, which was till now playing the active role, has now joined hands in the corruption.

Won’t this play into the hands of the pharma companies?
IT has opened the can of corruption for pharma companies. The pharma companies discreetly was funding the Continuing Medical Education (CME)s organised by association of doctors. The CME is conducted to upgrade doctors’ knowledge on recent development in their sector. With MCI’s decision, pharma companies will openly sponsor the CME resulting in doctors gaining selective knowledge. Instead of learning new things from medical journal, they will learn whatever the pharma companies will like them to learn.

How can pharma companies now play a bigger role in the procedure of getting government approval for drugs or vaccines etc? Will the MCI now become easily ‘manageable’?
Yes, the decision therefore tends to have dangerous implication. When associations like Indian Academy of Pedeatrics are asked to give opinion by government for forming guidelines etc, they are supposed to be based on scientific evidence, efficacy of the vaccine and needs to be unbiased. With association of doctors being kept out of the code of ethics, there is high chance of the doctors being influenced by the pharma companies.

Will this not result in associations working without fear? And thereby reduce their responsibility towards patients and healthcare sector?
Deleting association of doctors from the clause of the code of medical ethics will lead to association of doctors working without fear. The associations will openly receive monetary grants from the pharma companies as there will be no one to challenge them. This is the happiest news for pharma companies as it will give them lot of scope to rule on the healthcare sector in India.

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