Doctors are considered as gods on soil. They have the utmost responsibility, starting from helping in giving birth to us to declaring us dead in the death bed.
But is advertisement of medial expertise legible or permissible?
According to Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954, advertisements by doctors are prohibited in any medium. Any form of promises or advertisements of ‘guaranteed treatment’ cannot be made by doctor, according to Code of Ethics laid down by Medical Council of India.
“No doctor can make high claims about any procedure.”
|Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 |
Rule 1.9 under Chapter 1 chains EVASION OF LEGAL RESTRICTIONS:
The physician shall observe the laws of the country in regulating the practice of medicine and shall also not assist others to evade such laws. He should be co-operative in the observance and enforcement of sanitary laws and regulations in the interest of public health. A physician should observe the provisions of the State Acts like Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; Pharmacy Act, 1948; Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985; Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971; Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994; Mental Health Act, 1987; Environmental Protection Act, 1986; Pre-natal Sex Determination Test Act, 1994; Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954; Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Full Participation) Act, 1995 and Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and such other Acts, Rules, Regulations made by the central/state governments or local administrative bodies, or any other relevant Act relating to the protection and promotion of public health.
Rule 6.1 under Chapter 6 elaborates on the UNETHICAL ACTS:
A physician shall not aid or abet or commit any of the following acts which shall be construed as unethical:
Soliciting of patients directly or indirectly, by a physician, by a group of physicians or by institutions or organisations, is unethical.
A physician shall not make use of him/her (or his/her name) as subject of any form or manner of advertising or publicity through any mode either alone or in conjunction with others which is of such a character as to invite attention to him or to his professional position, skill, qualification, achievements, attainments, specialities, appointments, associations, affiliations or honours and/or of such character as would ordinarily result in his self-aggrandisement.
A physician shall not give to any person, whether for compensation or otherwise, any approval, recommendation, endorsement, certificate, report or statement with respect of any drug, medicine, nostrum remedy, surgical, or therapeutic article, apparatus or appliance or any commercial product or article with respect of any property, quality or use thereof or any test, demonstration or trial thereof, for use in connection with his name, signature, or photograph in any form or manner of advertising through any mode, nor shall he boast of cases, operations, cures or remedies or permit the publication of report thereof through any mode.
A medical practitioner is however permitted to make a formal announcement in press regarding the following:
On starting practice.
On change of type of practice.
On changing address.
On temporary absence from duty.
On resumption of another practice.
On succeeding to another practice.Public declaration of charges.
Printing of self-photograph, or any such material of publicity in the letter head or on the sign board of the consulting room or any such clinical establishment shall be regarded as acts of self-advertisement and unethical conduct on the part of the physician. However, printing of sketches, diagrams, pictures of the human system shall not be treated as unethical.
Rule 7.11 and 7.12 under Chapter 7 pinpoints MISCONDUCT:
A physician should not contribute to the lay press articles and give interviews regarding diseases and treatments which may have the effect of advertising himself or soliciting practices; but is open to write to the lay press under his own name on matters of public health, hygienic living or to deliver public lectures, give talks on the radio/TV/internet chat for the same purpose and send announcement of the same to the lay press.
An institution run by a physician for a particular purpose such as a maternity home, nursing home, private hospital, rehabilitation centre or any type of training institution etc. may be advertised in the lay press, but such advertisements should not contain anything more than the name of the institution, type of patients admitted, type of training and other facilities offered and the fees.
In August, 2016, the Indian Medical Association had issued a Press Release with a strict warn to disallow all forms of advertisements on expertise in medicine. They are in violations of Medical Council of India (MCI) Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002 as well as Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.
The Press release comes handy exactly on the wake on the ongoing several cases against the casual approach of doctors materialistically towards such a noble profession. There have been instances of promises of guaranteed pregnancy in clinics, which are sheer violation of medical ethics under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002. One such infamous incident occurred in 2014 in the State of Maharashtra where a doctor couple, running an In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinic in Mumbai, had advertised for guaranteed pregnancy. Their licenses were suspended by the Maharashtra Medical Council effective immediately after the complaint. Another incident can be calculated as one that occurred in Madhya Pradesh, where the Medical Council issued sanction notices to nearly fifty eminent doctors for propagating their expertise openly. Madhya Pradesh Medical Council’s Chairman, Dr G S Patel opined that it is unethical for doctors to expertise their skills through various means. They are regularly featured in advertisements claiming to cure infertility, diabetes, obesity and other conditions. Additionally, news garnered in May 2016 when Tamil Nadu Medical Council stringently gave a nay to online advertisements by doctors. It ardently asked them to remove their details from online registries such as names, photographs, speciality and contact details, as this violates the Medical Council of India’s Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002.
As per the Medical Council of India (MCI) Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002, a doctor is permitted to make a ‘formal announcement (preferably, press release)’ only on the following:
|Inception of Practice.|
|Field of specialisation.|
|On changing Address.|
|On temporary absence from duty.|
|On resumption of another practice.|
|On succeeding to another practice.|
|Public declaration of charges.|
The power of advertisement is well beyond what we can conceive of. Though they might give an edge in popularising in the masses, but it does contain the negative element of impacting the populace strongly from the wrong side. Advertisements of flaws and promises for successful surgeries, procedures etc. might harm a soul to death. Advertisements must be truthful and not deceptive or misleading. Specifically, this means that all information must be accurate and must not create false or unjustified expectations. The field of medicine is already tightened by other dilemmas, but this remains one of the controversial questions of the era.
“The views of the authors are personal“