A bunch of concerned doctors and members of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have written a letter demanding an explanation from the IMA for its decision to ‘validate’ Kent water purifiers. The slew of advertisements released by Kent, in which it has prominently claimed that its products were ‘validated’, ‘approved’ or ‘accepted’ by IMA has led to a slug fest, especially in the online world, between groups of doctors arguing for and against IMA associating with Kent.
The letter dated May 27 to IMA president Dr A Marthanda Pillai expressed shock over IMA’s decision to ‘validate’ a particular brand of water purifiers. It stated that news regarding IMA’s MoU (memorandum of understanding) with Kent shocked them as it had “brought the credibility of our prestigious organisation to the lowest level ever and we are upset by the public questioning on these issues”.
In doctors’ discussion fora and on social media platforms, some doctors decried the falling ethical standards of the medical profession and asked why IMA was reducing doctors to “glorified salesmen for a water purifier company”, while another bunch defended the IMA’s decisions saying there was nothing illegal in IMA gathering funds to meet its aims and objectives as per its constitution.
The doctors who sent the letter have asked for the MoU with Kent and other companies to be made public along with the name of the signatories of the MoUs and the amount of money the companies gave IMA. The Kent MoU is not available in the public domain, though another MoU signed by IMA with three construction companies to build homes for IMA members in Greater Noida is available. In this MoU, IMA is represented by president Dr Marthanda Pillai, previous national president Dr Jitendra B Patel, previous secretary general Dr Narendra Saini, former president Dr Vinay Aggarwal, current secretary general Dr K K Aggarwal and principal advisor to IMA Dr N V Kamat.
The letter asked if any tender was floated to check the rates and products of the various companies making water purifiers and whether comparative studies were done of these products to decide that Kent was the best that needed IMA promotion. Pointing out that 90% of the population could not afford a commercial water purifier, the letter asked what solution IMA had for them and for those living below the poverty line.
“Are you convinced that Kent does not have commercial interests as primary interests, but their real intentions are “Swachh and Swasth Bharat?” queried the letter. It also asked for details of the lab in which the water samples were tested and asked how many samples were lifted and from where. In this context, the doctors also asked the IMA to reveal in which peer reviewed journal the study had been published and whether the study was approved by the Indian Council for Medical Research. It is a violation of the medical code of ethics for doctors to endorse unscientific claims.
The letter has been signed by several doctors from Delhi, Patna, Vijaywada, Agra, including Dr S S Soodan medical director of Acharaya Shrichand College of Medical Science in Jammu, Dr Sanjay Nagral, chairperson of the Forum for Medical Ethics Society which publishes the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics and gastroenterology surgeon, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai and Dr Sudhir Dhakre, former vice president of IMA Uttar Pradesh. Signatories also included several former office holders of IMA branches in Punjab including Dr R K Sharma, former president of IMA Ludhiana, Dr Balbir Singh, president of IMA, Patiala, Dr Nirmal Kumar Dhiman, president of IMA, Morinda and Dr Narjit Kaur, former vice president of IMA, Ludhiana.