Medical (Un)Ethics: Undermining the Hippocratic Oath?

Medical (Un)Ethics: Undermining the Hippocratic Oath?
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By Mashooq Yousuf Malik

Days before, I overheard a conversation of a group of girls at my university campus. One of them complained to others “doctors these days fail to diagnose even the palpable of ailments, yet provide prescriptions.” Being a sacrosanct profession, the profession of a doctor distinguishes its successors as a noble one. Like other professions, it has also been, however, subject to some intrinsic ethical principles famously known as the ‘Hippocratic Oath.’ The Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2002 which endorses the Hippocratic Oath states that “the prime object of the medical profession is to render service to the humanity at large; reward or financial gain is thereby a subordinate consideration.”
So, why has the profession of a doctor earned infamy? There can possibly be an unknown number of reasons given the magnitude and proportions of the rot in the profession. I, however, identify the following:
1. The fact that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a hub of spurious medicines is now an open secret. It has rather become a fact of life in this part of the world. Only recently, a national level drug survey in India has claimed that 8.37 per cent of drugs provided in government-run hospitals in J&K have been found “not of standard quality” (Tribune India, Feb 22, 2017).All this happens despite the existence of a full-fledged central level legislation on the point. This is horrifying. What’s more, doctors are very part of the phenomenon in that they prescribe drugs with the trade name rather than the generic one. This is actually the point where the problem, in fact, starts.
2. Currently, over five million cases of medical negligence are recorded on an average every year in India ranging from wrong drugs to the uncalled for surgeries (India Today Magazine, Oct 9, 2014).Needless to say, doctors contribute to the problem in a phenomenal way. India Medical Times reported a 110% cumulative increase in medical negligence cases per year in India.
3. Doctors posted at the government hospitals more often lure patients to their private clinics. A local weekly Kashmir Life (Feb 27, 2017) recently reported one such incident wherein a doctor posted at the state’s premier medical institute (SKIMS)had recommended a patient to a private clinic for some medical tests. While the said doctor had done so despite the facility at the institute, rest part of the story is not hard to understand.
4. Recommending medical tests have become the norm with the twenty-first century doctors. A casual visit to a doctor’s clinic can land you in a medical laboratory for an unnecessary examination. 5. Again, doctors are not at a bay in matters of sex selection and the killing of female fetus. The recent census figures, which show a skewed sex ratio in the state, are an indicator. The National Centre for Biotechnology Information has, in 2014, reported selective abortions of girls in India tallied about 4•2-12•1 million from 1980-2010.
6. The scenario got worse when the Apex Court, in 2011, after hearing a writ petition that challenged a government order banning private practice of doctors, ruled that “defying the ban doesn’t amount to any illegality or corruption.”
Having reached a point of no return, all this is an utter disregard of the Hippocratic Oath. It happens despite the Geneva Declaration, 1948, adopted by the World Medical Assembly, directed the member countries to take punitive measures against the violators of sacred oath. Now, financial gain appears to be the prime object of medical profession; “service to humanity” is only supplementary. It’s time to translate the Geneva Declaration, 1948 into action.
Tailpiece:An advocate may cause asset-loss to his client; a teacher may seek pearls from private tuition, but a doctor’s deviation destructs life, results in economic loss and causes mental agony.

— The author is a student of LLM at School of Legal Studies, CU-Kashmir. He can be reached at: mashooq.law@gmail.com)

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