Mumbai: Highlighting the possible criminal prosecution at the hands of police authorities under unjust/fake cases against medical practitioners, the Indian Medical Association has now written to the government authorities giving its views on the proposed anti cut law.
Medical Dialogues team had earlier reported that draft bill for The Prevention of Cut Practices in Healthcare Services Act, 2017; Maharashtra has recently released and it spelled out harsh penalties including 5 years jail time for all medical practitioners involved in the practice of giving or receiving of cuts/ commissions.
Read more at Medical Dialogues: 5-year Jail-time, Rs 50,000 fine for doctors involved in cut practice: Check out Details
Stakeholders opinion has been invited and stakeholders can send their opinion to the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), which will be considered and incorporated after discussions. In pursuance of the same, IMA President Elect, Dr Ravi Wankhadekar has now written to the Chairman of the Government Committee for the proposed anti-cut law providing the viewpoints of the organization on the proposed law
While clearly stating that IMA has zero tolerance to unethical medical practice, the body has clearly shown opposition to the clause of imprisonment and the involvement of the anti-corruption department of the police fearing harassment of medical practitioners with fake cases.
The organization has shown concern that the competent authority should not be the anti-corruption department of police (ACB) to avoid any POLICE RAAJ. Instead, district level committees should be formed having Collector, Civil Surgeon, Law officer, IMA representative etc and the respective councils should be strengthened to deal with such cases. Moreover, the association pointed out that involvement of ACB implies that medical practitioners are public servants.
By no stretch of imagination private medical practitioners/ doctors can be considered and/or deemed to be public servants under any law in force. The menace of cut practice is essentially an ethical issue which needs to be dealt with a heavy hand, however, assigning the power of investigation to ACB under the new law would render the new law unconstitutional.
IMA has proposed that offenses under the act must be punishable by fine only and must be non- cognizable and bailable in nature.
Another issue raised by the association is that there should be a clear cut definition of what constitutes Cut- Practice with no gray areas. Speaking to Medical Dialogues team, Dr Wankhadekar, IMA President Elect said,” The definition of cut practice needs to be clear and there should be no room to authorities for interpretation, otherwise, this policy will have disastrous effects for medical practitioners. There should be no loopholes in the definition of the law.”
Other issues raised by IMA include the following
- No vicarious liability -Vicarious liability is a responsibility upon one person for the failure of another or with whom the person has a special relationship such as ‘employer and employee’. In the instant case, the Doctors practicing at Private or Public Hospitals may or may not be deemed as employees of the Hospitals as there are often various kinds of visiting doctors and experts that attend the patients. If hospital or Institution is indulging in Cut Practice without knowledge of employee doctors then Hospital CEO and management should be penalized & not employee doctor.
- Verification of Complaints– Section 5 (1) of the draft states that the identity of the complainant should not be disclosed without the permission of the Appropriate Court. However, this will make it very easy and accessible for people to lodge false and frivolous complaints against the Doctors in order to defame them. It also gives the complainant the liberty to use this provision as a tool to blackmail and extort money from the Doctors. It is of utmost importance to reveal the identity of the complainant including a verification of the complainant (whether he/she had any criminal antecedents) and to establish a procedure as per the guidelines laid by the Central Vigilance Commission to verify the allegations and veracity of the complaints in order to avoid all invalid allegations without any substance against the Doctors.
- Violation of section 6 must be dealt with strictly: Section 6 deals with the disclosure or presentation of comments on any healthcare service provider without having adequate knowledge and unauthentic information which may lead to defaming the Medical practitioner. It further states that it is strictly prohibited to disclose the identity of the healthcare service provider and maintain complete confidentiality. However, the violation of Section 6 as per the provisions of this act has been laid down as punishment with simple imprisonment of one month. The violation of this section should be dealt with a stricter and more deterrent form of punishment. A mere imprisonment of one month will have no deterrent effect on the person/ complainant intending to violate this section. Identity must not be disclosed but no unscrupulous or pseudonymous complaint to be entertained. Identity of the complaint is a must to verify the allegations and veracity of the complaint.
- A strong deterrence should be incorporated in the act against false allegations, frivolous, concocted complaints and black mail. The interest of the medical fraternity and the public at large must be safeguarded by imposition of exemplary monetary penalty/ compensation, payable to the doctor which may include any expenses incurred by the Doctor in respect of legal fees, pleaders fees, process fees and/or fraudulent losses caused to the doctor by way of false complaint. Proceedings on the lines of section 340 Cr P.C must be initiated, forthwith, in cases which are patently false and frivolous.