Ethics, medical profession and soaring fees


Prescribing hearing aid for speaking difficulty by an ENT doctor serving at a Government hospital after examining the patient (a child) not at the Government hospital but at a private clinic opened at his own residence is simply outrageous. There is a law, if we are not mistaken, which forbids Government doctors from practising privately. Notwithstanding the law, the particular doctor and many other Government doctors have been practising privately. At the same time, they have been enjoying non-practising allowance. Government doctors practising privately is nothing new nor a secret, and doctors prescribing wrong medication or treatment do happen sometimes. But it is the refusal of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum to take up a single step against the erring ENT doctor even as a complaint was lodged by the aggrieved father of the child two years back which demands public scrutiny. The Manipur Medical Council (MMC) too was seemingly shirking its responsibility by referring a complaint filed by the father to the Medical Council of India (MCI). The MMC is there at the first place to look into such grievances and address conflicts between patients and doctors. The fundamental task entrusted to the MMC demands professionalism, efficiency and sense of fairness. Unfortunately, neither any trait of professionalism nor an iota of fairness can be seen in the MMC’s handling or mishandling of the particular case involving the particular ENT doctor. The MMC, by shirking away from its responsibility, defeated its own purpose. Leave aside the particular case, the MMC should be the guardian of all medical professionals and their professional ethics. But the MMC’s performance on this front is rather poor. There should be no room for prejudice in all the activities and functions of the MMC. If the concept that groups of same professions should stick together is applied in the functioning of MMC, we would only ask if there is any hope left.
Doctors are one of the most respected group of professionals in any society. Many people see and revere them as next to god. Like other professionals including teachers who constitute another group of well respected professionals, many doctors, if not all, have thrown away ethics down the gutter. This is not something peculiar to the State of Manipur. It is a universal phenomenon. Violation of ethics is not restricted to doctors or teachers alone. It is a common malaise of all professions and it can be attributed to the all pervasive currents of individualism, consumerism and materialism which are driven by the juggernaut of globalization. Having said these, there is one distinct difference between doctors and other professionals. Service of doctors can never be compared with lawyers or architects. Healthcare is a distress good and not a luxury good. In another word, consultation of doctors is never a choice but compulsion. Their service is basically a humanitarian service. It is no secret that doctors have been earning huge money through private pratice and there is nothing unlawful in it as long as the doctors are not serving in any Government hospital for there is no legislation as yet which fixes a limit on doctors’ fee. Nonetheless a proposal was raised in the Rajya Sabha to put a cap on doctors’ fee. The proposal is highly significant if one takes into account the ever rising rate of doctors’ consultation fee. At present, doctors’ fees can range from a few hundreds to a few thousands depending on seniority and specialty. The proposal, if transformed into a binding legislation, would be a huge relief to the country’s teeming millions of poor. There must be a regulation that fixes an upper limit on doctor’s fee otherwise there is a strong possibility of denying quality healthcare services to the poor. . It is not only the consultation fee, the poor patients have to pay exorbitant fees for undergoing several medical/laboratory tests in private clinics or diagnostic centres. The situation is all the more poignant if one goes to rural and hill areas of the State where modern healthcare facilities are virtually non-existent. The situation demands immediate attention and intervention of the State.

The Sangai Express Editorial


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