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Archive for July, 2011

Corrupt Indian Health Practices

Posted by Mrityunjay on July 12, 2011

The news of corruption in India is perhaps as shocking as presence of Taliban and Al-Qaida in Pakistan. So when you come across corrupt medical practices and experience it yourself, it can only create a stir in your heart and nowhere else. I have always been somewhat aware of seamy side of commercial medical practice because of my personal background but never been a direct victim of it, until now.

The story goes like this- I had some problem in my lower back so I went to a reputed Orthopaedic specialist. Found him yawning while I entered into his chamber, witnessed his continued yawning while he pretended to hear me for 2-3 minutes and he was still yawning when I left his chamber. His profile says, he regularly visits some of the most prominent private medical institutions in Delhi. He did not ask me much about my medical history, nor checked me personally. All he did was to recommend complete MRI scans of lower spine, dorsal and cervical. Note that, I only had problem in lower spine but the Respected Doctor prescribed all the three parts with specific instruction to go to a particular diagnostic center of his choice.

Now that’s for you, are the modern doctors today. A profession which was/is associated with charity/generosity is being used by pseudo life-givers as a tool to earn unscrupulous amount of money. Whether it’s paediatricians peddling gratuitous medicines by playing on the fears of parents or surgeons insisting on large sum of money before they can commence operations during an emergency or gynecologists pushing for caesarean by scaring the minds of patients or simply writing prescriptions for irrational drugs, majority of doctors have stooped too low. Some doctors, as in my case, prescribe expensive and unnecessary tests for the kickbacks they receive from diagnostic centres or pharma companies. There is no dearth of such cases.

Corruption amongst Indian doctors is rampant. It is my personal experience to witness doctors collaborating with Sonography doctors who do the Doppler’s test and write phony reports about the foetus development. Report will mention things like, the child is upside down or cord is around the neck etc. Private hospitals can’t earn much from normal deliveries so they use all the tricks to make patients go for the caesarean. It does not end there. Several pathology labs (mostly in smaller cities) will take the blood samples, will throw it in the back alley and will submit a report of someone else to the patients. Imagine, these unfortunate patients are prescribed drugs on the basis of such reports. The health professionals who are considered closest to God’s presence on earth because of their life-saving credentials are shamelessly playing with emotionally distressed people.

It is hardly surprising that most of the people have lost faith in the moral and ethical values of doctors. A famous Neurosurgeon in Delhi recommends on an average 10 MRI scan every day and for that he gets to earn 40% commission on every recommendation. Who can we trust when the Supreme Court of India declares the governing council MCI (Medical Council of India) as “den of corruption”. Arrest of its chairperson Ketan Desai further proves that medical education is acknowledged to be a business investment and medical practice gives the returns. Love of money has replaced the basic foundation of modern medicine, i.e., philanthropy. Deception, bribery and conflict of interest have become the new troika that defines modern day health practices in India. Though, these elements are dangerous for any business but downright deadly in medicine. It’s a shame that healthcare has become a money-spinning game.

Every year, thousands of Indian physicians and surgeons visit exotic locations. These visits are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies in lieu of unnecessary prescription of drugs by the so called messiahs of the society. In the light of such revelations, no wonder, doctors hardly prescribe alternative medicines for their patients. Last known, nature never offers bribes. How could these doctors whom society places on a high pedestal look in the mirror afterward? Is it self-deception which allows them to live with the fact that they are being bought? Or they stop questioning these practices by terming this a routine practice in medical field?

What’s the solution? I can’t seem to find any. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), largest association of doctors in India, has never taken an initiative to the declining standards of morality in its members whereas the heads of the regulatory council of medical education, the Medical Council of India is embroiled in allegations of payoffs.

A doctor’s confession published in The Hindu- We, doctors, know for sure from our long years of grueling studies that most of the symptoms are self-limiting, most others are trivial and very few are serious. In the name of evidence-based medicine and defensive medicine, we order a battery of investigations even for trivial symptoms. The cut practice and cost recovery of hospital equipment play a prime role in decision-making. Unnecessary tests are a loathsome burden on patients and, at times, result in false positive results leading to unscientific treatment.

Another practicing Psychiatrist says, Corruption occurs in three forms- split-fee, pharma-company interference and performance of unnecessary tests and procedures. In my experience corruption is practiced by almost all doctors.” To finish with, it would be too harsh on my part to generalize these revelations. There must be a good many doctors who voluntarily choose to put the care and welfare of their patients as their first and foremost priority and concern however hard it may be in an increasingly difficult and competitive market economy but these doctors should be considered more as exceptions rather than rules! The regulatory bodies must take control of the deteriorating health practices in the country or else…

And by the way, I got MRI done only on the lower back and did not visit that orthopaedic specialist again.    

Image courtesy:-themanipaljournal.com

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