AI cannot replace doctors, says IMA chief

"We may be answerable on the law of torts or the civil law. A crime is defined as having an intent.

May 01, 2024 04:34 pm | Updated May 05, 2024 11:51 am IST - New Delhi

Artificial intelligence cannot replace doctors though this technology can assist medical practitioners, IMA chief Dr. R.V. Asokan has said.

During an interaction with PTI editors, he said the medical profession has always been the first to embrace technology but it cannot supersede the connection between a patient and a doctor.

"Nobody can replace a doctor. As long as the patient is vulnerable and is in a situation where he is so helpless that no science can treat him, only that touch, that hope, that eye contact, that assurance of a doctor can work," he said.

Dr. Asokan asserted that newer technologies like artificial intelligence, telemedicine and robotic surgery will greatly enhance the medical field but "I think the doctor will always be there".

"We believe that the art of medicine is bigger than the science of medicine," he said.

Commenting on the violent attack on doctors and the need for a centralised law, he said unfortunately such instances of doctors are becoming a part of the culture.

"It has become part of the culture. It is because of the high expectations and the unmet needs... There is a law protecting the airline staff. We are asking the government that if the airline staff are so special for the country, then please give us some protection also," he said.

Dr. Asokan further said around 23 states have passed laws to deal with violence against doctors but these, he said, were ineffective on the ground.

He went on to say that amendments to the Epidemic Diseases Act, were useful.

"You wanted the doctors to be protected during the corona pandemic and not on ordinary times, that also looks funny," he said.

Over punishment of doctors for medical negligence, the IMA chief said that no doctor is criminally culpable.

"We may be answerable on the law of torts or the civil law. A crime is defined as having an intent. If there is no intent then there is no crime. If it's a murder, then its a different thing. Otherwise during the process of treatment if there is a death there is no criminal intention. You cannot accuse the doctor of a criminal intention. Something might have gone wrong. Civil law is adequate to handle that situation," he said.

Responding to a question on whether the IMA was concerned over the allegations about pharma companies influencing doctors in prescribing their respective brands and bribing them with gifts and junkets disguised as conferences, Dr. Asokan said medical professionals have to follow the etiquette that has been prescribed.

The (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 of the Medical Council of India is certainly applicable, he said.

"We do not expect the doctors to cross a line. They need to fall within the etiquette. Pharma practices were recently updated and they also have quoted that medical etiquette of 2002 will be applicable wherever we have not defined something." Our proposal is that any industry that has something to do with patients should follow medical ethics, whether it is a hospital or any other industry that doesn't matter, he said.

Over the NMC coming out with new regulations stating that all medical PG students will work for "reasonable working hours" and will be provided "reasonable time for rest" in a day, Dr. Asokan said, "Our young doctors are working 86 hours or 100 hours continuously whereas an IT tycoon is saying India should work 60 hours per week." He went on to add: "Doctors are asking please reduce our working hours to 60 hours per week. We have plenty of doctors in India and we are the largest doctor producing country in the world churning out 1 lakh 10,000 doctors every year from 706 medical colleges and now 112 medical colleges have been added."

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