The new MCI bill should empower the MCI to act against quacks
Guest article by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani
The healthcare system in India is broken , and the medical profession needs reform. The new Medical Council of India Bill is a great opportunity to do so, but there is a huge gap in the new MCI Bill which needs to be fixed urgently.
One of the biggest problems with the Medical Council today is that it can only regulate those doctors who are registered with it. It has no powers over anyone else, even though the actions of these other players have a potentially huge impact on the health of patients.
Because there is so much illiteracy and ignorance in India today, a lot of the harm that is caused to patients is done by unqualified doctors or quacks. Unfortunately, the Medical Council of India can't do anything about this , because they do not have any authority over them.
The Medical Council is supposed to regulate the medical profession, and while they are empowered to act against qualified registered doctors who have been shown to be negligent or incompetent, they can't do anything about quacks !
Today, quacks can and do publish an advertisement which is full of medical falsehoods, and the Medical Council can't do anything about it. These misleading ads create a lot of harm, because they take vulnerable patients for a ride. The Council needs to ensure that citizens have access to reliable and trustworthy health information, so they can make sure they are getting the right medical care.
The Medical Council should be given the right and the responsibility to regulate and supervise advertisements related to health and medical topics . If these contain incorrect information, the Medical Council should have the power to take action against the advertisers who mislead gullible patients , and end up causing a lot of harm. We need to protect our patients from these misleading ads which are often put out either by quacks , or by commercial organizations who have a vested interest in selling their untested and unproven products.
The Medical Council is in the best position to do this , because it has the expertise in order to judge which advertisements are factually accurate , and which are not. This would go a big step forward in making sure that the public gets reliable medical information , rather than the misleading stuff with which they are inundated daily today. These ads not only cause them to waste a lot of money on false hopes , but also hinder and delay their getting the right medical care.
Thus, every ad should be screened and authorised by the Medical Council before it is published. This would help to protect gullible citizens, so that they are not taken for a ride.
The Act should task the Medical Council with the duty of eliminating quackery. This is extremely important because patients are vulnerable , and they're not sophisticated enough to be able to judge between a good doctor and a quack.
Even though doctors see the harm these quacks can cause on a daily basis, they are powerless to protect their patients from the quackery. The Medical Council is hamstrung in its efforts to wipe out quackery because these practitioners are not registered with the Council, which means they end up falling beyond their ambit. Registered doctors are not allowed to advertise, but these quacks can make unsubstantiated tall claims, and get away with these with impunity, because they are not answerable to anyone. The new bill should ensure that Medical Council takes cognizance of these quacks , and has the power to take appropriate action against them .
The present Act hamstrings the Medical Council because they are limited only to regulating doctors registered with them. They should be empowered with regulating all medical activities which affect the health of Indian citizens.
This would go a long way in protecting Indian citizens from the menace of quackery . This is increasing by leaps and bounds, because there are no limits to what quacks can publish in their online ads , since they are not accountable or answerable to anyone.