Aamir Khan's “Satyamev Jayate” has drawn sharp criticism from Indian Medical Association

Taking forward the debate on commercialisation of health, initiated by actor Aamir Khan in his television show “Satyamev Jayate” that drew sharp criticism from the Indian Medical Association (IMA), health activists have said distortions in medical practices, induced by unregulated commercialisation, have become systemic problems.

In an open letter to the IMA, which has sought an apology from Mr. Khan for “maligning'' the entire profession because of a few errant doctors, the Medico Friend Circle (MFC) and the Forum for Medical Ethics Society (FMES) have sought self-regulation by medical professionals and active involvement of citizens in the process, than bureaucratic regulation, to ensure rational care and patients' rights.

‘Uphold dignity of medical profession’

They said: “We very much appreciate that you want to uphold the dignity of the medical profession. However, we feel that denying or minimising the importance of the issues raised by the show and demanding an apology fromAamir Khan is definitely not the most appropriate way of upholding the dignity of doctors. Instead, the IMA should seriously try to reverse the process of health system reforms for eliminating the distortions in medical practice. This would be immensely beneficial to patients and would also raise the dignity of the medical profession manifold. Instead of ‘silencing the messenger,' we need to listen to the main message of the show and take steps to address problems which are very real.''

The letter raised questions on cut practice and commissions, irrationality in investigations and surgical practices, influence of the pharmaceutical industry on doctors, and inflation of patient bills as a consequence to all these practices.

“This has resulted in massive problems related to both cost and quality of medicare for people. Besides the evidence from various studies on Caesarean section rates, injection practices, prevalence of hysterectomies and sex selective abortions are admitted to by most practicing doctors, and are not limited to a few isolated individuals,” the letter said.

“As good physicians, if we go beyond addressing the ‘symptoms' and make a ‘comprehensive diagnosis,' it will be obvious that all these disturbing features are due to a system of unregulated commercialisation of medical care, which has emerged over the last few decades.

Large number of discontented individuals, doctors as well as ordinary citizens, need to come together and start changing this system through a large scale social process,'' the MFC and FMES said.