The Indian Medical Association (IMA), a voluntary organization of doctors, has proposed new guidelines to improve ethical practice by doctors, declared Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, who was elected as the new secretary-general of IMA at a pompous gala during the 89th All India Medical Conference held in Ahmedabad on December 27, 2014. There is no argument that it is a praiseworthy effort for any organization to try to improve ethical practice of medicine in India. But the new proposal by IMA is misconvceived for more reasons than one.
First, IMA has absolutely no legal authority to enforce anything on any doctor. Therefore, anything IMA might propose, even for better practice of medicine, would simply be ignored by members of the medical community who are involved with unethical practice. The power to enforce doctors to do ethical practice is vested only with the Medical Council of India (MCI) that has already framed “Code of Ethics & Regulations” which is mandatory for all registered doctors in India. Rather than making an useless public stunt by proposing new ethical norms for doctors, IMA should send their guidelines to MCI for adding them to the existing “Code of Ethics & Regulations” in order to have any real effect on doctors.
More importantly, the way healthcare in India stands today, IMA has hardly any credibility left to propose guidelines on medical ethics. At the IMA conference in Ahmedabad last week, disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, ;was chosen to deliver the inaugural address and he was treated as the supreme leader of IMA by Dr. Aggarwal and other senior IMA members. As most people in India are aware today, Dr. Desai is now free on bail facing serious criminal charges for bribery and corruption. Dr. Desai’s license to practice also remains suspended and he has been barred from participating in any medical conference by MCI since 2010 after he was caught red-handed while taking bribe by CBI. Many senior IMA leaders themselves are also facing serious charges for corruption and unethical practice. Has IMA ever taken any action against any of their delinquent medical colleagues? IMA must first cleanse its own house and try to restore public trust before even thinking to propose ethical guidelines. The latest move by IMA is nothing but an empty political gimmick.