Medical Council wrath on Pathologists for allowing use of Scanned Signatures
Mumbai: Holding two Maharashtra-based pathologists guilty of gross violation of the Professional code of ethics, the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has recently taken strict action those two doctors, who certified pathology lab reports without personal supervision and allowed private laboratories for using their scanned signatures.
While the MMC registration of one of those two pathologists has been suspended till pending inquiry, the Executive Committee has decided to remove the Registration of another doctor from the register of the council for 6 months.
Besides, the doctor who has been suspended by the council has been "refrained from doing Medical practice &/or professional of any nature of practice during the period of suspension.
"If you found doing any kind of medical practice during the suspension period, suitable action will be taken against you as per law," clarified the council.
However, the Council has allowed the doctors to appeal before the National Medical Commission and mentioned, "A medical practitioner or professional who is aggrieved by any action taken by a State Medical Council may prefer an appeal to the Ethics and Medical Registration Board against such action as per Section 30 (3) of the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 to NMC."
The matter concerned two doctors who are by profession pathologists and microbiologists. The complaint was made by a doctor, who alleged that during the investigation of insurance claim cases, one of those two pathologists certified pathology lab reports without personal supervision or attendance and used to allowed the pathology labs to use his scanned signatures.
On the other hand, the complainant doctor submitted before the Council that the other pathologist has multiple attachments with private pathology labs. These labs are located at various places and this makes it impossible for any individual to visit on daily basis. Further, her name and signature are being used for routine as well as insurance claim reports.
After receiving the complaints, the Council under Section 22 of the MMC Act, 1965, and Rules 62-74 of MMC Rules, 1967, decided to conduct inquiry and issued letters to the pathologists on April 30, 2019, asking them to submit an explanation regarding the matter.
Even though one of those two pathologists submitted his explanation and also was present during the hearing of the case, the other one didn't respond at all. Thereafter, all the relevant documents related to the case were referred to the Ethical Committee, which summoned the parties for a hearing.
After scrutiny of complaints and papers, on hearing the complaint, the Ethical Committee considered the complaints and observed that the first pathologist is associated with multiple pathology laboratories which are located at various distance places. Besides, he certified pathology lab reports without personal supervision or attendance, and allowed laboratories/ technicians/ non medico persons to use his scan signature.
On the other hand, regarding the second pathologist, the Committee observed that the name and signature of the doctor is being used for the purpose of insurance claim reports and she allowed laboratories /technicians/ non-medico persons to use her scan signature.
Taking these observations into consideration, the Ethical Committee decided to frame charges against these two doctors and accordingly charge sheet including statement of allegation and relevant papers were provided to the doctors. However, the doctors couldn't mark their presence during the hearings of the complaints.
While considering the complaints, the State Council noted that the Apex court in its judgment dated 12/12/2017 had observed that, "the stand of the Medical Council of India that Laboratory Report can be counter signed only by a Registered Medical Practitioner with a post graduate qualification in pathology is correct."
Further, it was also noted by the Council that the MCI/MMC notification had clearly informed all registered medical practitioner that, "no practitioner shall sign any clinical, lab/radiological reports, professional documents unless he/she is directly involved in conducting such test and reports. Council also warned practitioners to refrain and avoid signing multiple reports without supervision."
Taking these factors into consideration, the Council held the two pathologists guilty and observed,
"Thus, for the gross violation of professional misconduct and code of ethics as enumerated under Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulation 2002, r/w section 22 of MMC Act. 1965 and charged under article 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.2.1, 1.4.1 of chapter 1, article 3.7.2 of chapter 3 r/w. article 7.7 of chapter 7 of Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulation 2002 as they have failed to maintain the dignity of the profession and failed to mentioned the Registration number on the reports, allow their digitalized signature and to attend laboratories on their behalf."
Therefore, the Executive Committee in its resolution mentioned that the registration of the first doctor would be suspended till pending enquiry-
"Registration No. ***** with the Maharashtra Medical Council is hereby suspended (under section 10(d) of MMC Act, 1965) till pending enquiry & you have been refrained from doing Medical practice &/or professional of any nature of practice during the period of suspension. If you found doing any kind of medical practice during the suspension period, suitable action will be taken against you as per law."
Regarding the pathologist, the Committee decided that the Council has sentenced to remove the Registration of the said doctor "for 6 months from Register of the Council from the date of the order. The said punishment of removal of registration shall be implemented after appeal period are over."
However, giving the doctors a chance to approach the NMC, the order further mentioned,
"A medical practitioner or professional who is aggrieved by any action taken by a State Medical Council may prefer an appeal to the Ethics and Medical Registration Board against such action as per Section 30 (3) of the National Medical Commission Act, 2019 to NMC."
To read the Council orders, click on the links below.