1) Quackery: This is the biggest problem. To me, the term “medical community” means those qualified in modern medicine. All others are vaids, hakims, siddhas, homeopaths and naturopaths only. Quackery means practising modern medicine without being registered with the medical council. Neither the Indian Medical Association (IMA), nor the government is keen on abolishing quackery. The ordinary medical person finds it difficult to survive in an environment where he has to compete with a quack. When a doctor sets up his general practice, he suddenly finds that all his efforts and hard work and money in getting a medical degree have gone down the drain since the next door quack, including AYUSH quack, mints money without spending anything. All that money should have rightfully belonged to him. To compensate, and often to earn a minimal decent living, he has often to resort to illegal means, which certainly is to be condemned.
2) Lack of A Strong Association: There are a large number of illegalities and unjust laws forced upon the medical community which deserve to be challenged in the court with the hope of a favourable outcome. Such challenge has to come not from an individual but from their association. The IMA, the nationally recognised association with about 2.75 lakh members and 1700 branches, has utterly failed in its duty in this regard.
3) Grossly Deficient Budget Allocation for Health: India’s health budget is 1.3% of its GDP (gross domestic product). In contrast, it is 15-18% in advanced countries of the West. The government and the country expect Indian doctors to provide world-class treatment and attain world-class standards and perform world-class research in medicine with a budget that is almost the lowest internationally. Neither the IMA has ever demanded a hike in a strong manner, nor has the government woken up to this disparity on its own. The situation lingers on.
4) A Hostile Environment: Today, the poor doctors find themselves at the receiving end from all — the public, the politicians, the government, the parliament and, even, the judiciary. Assaults on doctors have become the order of the day. Even political hotheads from various parties are known to have indulged in mass violence against hospitals. This happened a few years ago in Maharashtra. Nobody is bothered. Doctors suffer in silence. All that they can do is to vow not to send their children to a medical college.
5) Hostile and Corrupt Medical Councils (at state and central level): These medical councils, rather than punishing quacks as per their own Acts, are more interested in punishing, often unjustly, their own members. The Medical Council of India (MCI) has been described by the Delhi High Court as a “den of corruption”. These councils often defeat the purpose for which they were established. The result is that the whole medical community suffers a bad name.
The author, Dr M C Gupta, is a New Delhi based Medico-Legal expert. He holds an MD (Medicine) from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), an LLB from Delhi University and LLM from Kurukshetra University. He has served as a faculty member at AIIMS for 18 years and as professor and dean at the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare. Currently, Dr Gupta is a practising advocate with health and medical law as the area of special interest. He is a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Indian Law Institute.