The Medical Council of India is entrusted with the task of maintaining high standards in medical education and practice. Its code for professional conduct was recently modified. One would expect an improvement, but the Council, has again decided to prioritise those with clout in the medical profession, in the form of doctors’ professional associations, and industry over good medical practice and ethics.
A clause in the code (clause 6.8), last modified in 2009, forbade individual medical practitioners and professional associations of doctors from receiving any gift, travel facilities, hospitality, cash, or monetary grants from industry or their sales people or representatives. The clause also specifies the conditions under which research projects can be funded by industry.
Now, in February 2016, the title of clause 6.8 has been revised to remove a reference to “professional association of doctors.” No reason is offered. This means that associations can receive gifts, travel facilities, hospitality, cash, or monetary grants from industry and their sales people or representatives without restriction.
The Council has long kowtowed to pressure groups in the profession. (Nagarajan 2014, Pandya 2014) Its links with industry have also been criticised in the past. (Nagral and Roy 2010).
It has allowed itself to be swayed by organized bodies of doctors. Industry pays for these bodies of doctors to hold innumerable conferences, seminars, workshops and other academic meetings.
Also, the ban on gifts, travel facilities, hospitality, cash, or monetary grants to individual doctors has now been watered down, permitting each doctor to receive gifts and travel facilities valued up to Rs. 1,000 without limitation. Since there is no restriction on the frequency of such gifts and facilities, doctors could receive them daily and escape action.
The sections on medical research, maintaining professional autonomy, working for industry, and endorsement of industry products have also been weakened.
As it is, the Medical Council of India and the state medical councils have inefficient and ineffective means for monitoring medical practices. Their record of investigation of malpractice and effective punishment is abysmal. Kowtowing to organized bodies of doctors in connection with regulations aimed at enhancing ethical and legal practices will only perpetuate current malpractice. Withdrawing and watering down regulations pertaining to individual doctors will worsen already blatant violations and malpractices.
These modifications deserve condemnation and must be withdrawn immediately. It is sad that this national body remains unconcerned about the manner in which it words its diktats.
The clumsiness implied in “allied health care sector industry”—a phrase used repeatedly in this clause and its subsections—leaves innumerable loopholes since nowhere are the constituent members of this sector defined.
Sunil Pandya retired from the post of Professor of Neurosurgery at a teaching hospital in Mumbai, India, in 1998. He studies medical ethics, the history of medicine and the humanities in general.
Competing interests statement: I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have no financial or other competing interests in writing this essay.
Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002. (Amended up to 1st February 2016). Published by Medical Council of India, Pocket-14, Sector 8, Dwarka, New Delhi 110077.
Nagarajan Rema: Indian Medical Association bigwigs beyond Medical Council of India? The Times of India 11 June 2014 Accessed on 19 February 2016
Nagral Sanjay, Roy Nobhojit: The Medical Council of India guidelines on industry-physician relationship: breaking the conspiracy of silence. (Editorial) The National Medical Journal of India 2010;23:69-71
Nagral Sanjay: Ketan Desai and the Medical Council of India: the road to perdition? (Editorial) Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, 2010;7134-135
Pandya Sunil K: Medical Council of India: the rot within. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics 2009;6:125-131
Pandya, Sunil K. The Medical Council of India: need for a total overhaul. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics 2014;11:68-71