Special Correspondent

Info in public interest is good, not for commercial gains: IMA

COIMBATORE: A consumer welfare organisations’ letter to the Tamil Nadu Medical Council has called for stringent measures to prevent hospitals and private practitioners from advertising their services in the media or in other ways.

Pointing out that this was a clear violation of the rules of the Medical Council of India, Coimbatore Consumer Cause secretary K. Kathirmathiyon has said in the letter that things had worsened to the extent of advertisements such as “have one consultation and get another free”.

Besides, there were others that sought to create a panic among the public on certain health conditions such as heart problems. Some of them had even gone to the extent of saying that all people above 45 years of age should undergo angiogram.

The Coimbatore chapter of the Indian Medical Association has said that information for public interest was fair, but doctors should not provide this with an eye on commercial gains. “We are firm on following the norms of the medical council,” IMA Coimbatore’s general secretary S. Karthik Prabhu said.

The letter from the consumer body said the MCI had formulated a code of medical ethics to be observed by the practitioners so as to keep the image of the profession high.

“But of late, we are pained at the gross violation of the ethics by some medical practitioners. Many of them give advertisements of their profession in the name of education. We are also of the strong opinion that such advertisements totally mislead the public. Some of the medical practitioners advertise to project themselves as if they are the best medical practitioners offering effective cure to the public for ailments,” Mr. Kathirmathiyon said in the letter.

Some of them resorted to advertisements in newspapers and magazines and got their articles published with photos and address with a view to luring the patients. This was a clear violation of the code of medical ethics.

As per the code of ethics prescribed by Tamil Nadu Medical Council, action should be taken against registered medical practitioners if they had contributed articles in vernacular journals that had a description of the disease, symptoms and treatment and also the name and designation or address or qualification or photo of the practitioners.

Action should be taken against a doctor if hand bills/notices were distributed about the opening of his or her clinic, with the name, qualification, address or photo on these and also an invitation to the public to visit the clinic and an assurance of cure of all diseases.

Mr. Karthimathiyon mentioned the case of some doctors in Karnataka offering a consultation free for a paid one. The Karnataka Medical Council had pulled them up and issued warning to others.

Dr. Karthik Prabhu said doctors could inform the public on the timings of consultation, but not on what types of services they offered. “At the same time, some services that are of public interest can be published, but not those of a revenue generation model.”

Health camps that were totally service-oriented could be informed to the people, but not camps that were aimed at building the doctors’ private practice. Admitting that there were vested interests creeping into the system, Dr. Karthik Prabhu said the IMA had very clear guidelines from its State body and also the Tamil Nadu Medical Council to strictly following the code of ethics. “The fact is that we need to very clearly distinguish what is for public interest and what is for commercial interest,” he said.