The Medical Council of India has taken action against a group of physicians who reportedly appeared in an advertisement released by the hospital they were working in. It decided to remove their names from the Indian Medical Register/State Medical Register for 15 days for transgressing the Code of Medical Ethics.

While the Medical Council of India Code of Medical Ethics makes it plain that no doctor can indulge in any advertisement to promote himself or his/her practice, doctors see the recent judgment as an “interpretation” of the rules.

K.V. Babu, a Kerala-based doctor, who has championed the cause of medical ethics, says, “This ruling is very interesting.” He goes on to explain why: “While we all know that a doctor cannot advertise for himself or herself alone or together with other doctors, as per Section 6.1 of the MCI’s Code of Medical Ethics, here, we are being told that it is the duty of individual doctors to inform the hospitals that they would not be a part of any advertisement put out by the hospital.”

The minutes of the MCI meeting note: “After considering all these facts, the Committee is of the opinion that the following doctors whose photos and names appeared in the advertisement have violated provisions of the of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.” Further, it states: “The Ethics Committee decided to remove the following Names/Registration of the doctors, whose names were mentioned in the advertisement of Saxena Hospital, Sonepat, from the Indian Medical Register/State Medical Register for a period of 15 days.”

P. Prasannaraj, additional secretary, MCI, says the medical code of ethics is very clear that doctors should not participate in advertisements in any way.

In fact, the code has been published on the MCI’s website, and doctors are aware that not following the rule would invite censure.

J.A. Jayalal, president, Indian Medical Association – Tamil Nadu chapter, says that while technically action can be taken against the hospital for promoting doctors in its ads, the MCI has no jurisdiction over hospitals.

“Therefore, the action that the MCI can take when a complaint is preferred is only against individual doctors,” Dr. Jayalal adds. They must inform the hospitals they are employed in that they are not interested in being part of advertisements. This is the implication, he adds.

T.N. Ravishankar, former State secretary of the IMA- TN says hospitals can continue to advertise their services, special features and procedures, but in doing so, they cannot involve any doctor employed in the hospital for sure.

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