A Parliamentary panel has sought a stronger mechanism for ethical oversight of medical practice to address concerns of malpractices or medical negligence by doctors to restore the respect "medical profession has lost".
In its report presented to Rajya Sabha, the Committee noted with concern that although the Medical Council of India's (MCI) code of Ethics Regulations, 2002 contains in detail what constitutes duties and responsibilities of the physician, it is idealistic in nature and there is no mechanism in place to oversee its implementation.
"Considering all these factors, the Committee recommends that the Code of Medical Ethics needs to be well defined to take care of the concerns of public safety and malpractices or medical negligence by doctors so that the doctor-patient relationship which has taken a severe beating, can be repaired and retrieved.
"For that to happen there needs to be a stronger mechanism for ethical oversight of medical practice and the legislation governing the oversight of professional conduct of doctors should be made more specific with provision for transparency and timelines," Parliament's Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare said in its report on the functioning of MCI.
The panel highlighted the issue of "inappropriate drug dispensing and unnecessary procedures and the commission- linked diagnostics" by medical practitioners and health institutions in India mainly due to financial incentives.
It recommended formulation of treatment guidelines for various health conditions and their wide dissemination through publicity for protection of patients' interests and rights.
"The Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act 2010, can provide an umbrella legislation in this regard as it has the power to prescribe guidelines for all healthcare facilities," it said.
The Committee also called for an appeal mechanism to be
put in place so the patient does not feel "stonewalled".
"It is a matter of surprise that despite the worst kind of gross unethical practices happening by way of ghost faculty, fake patients and hired instruments and substantial amount of money (not white of course) reportedly changing hands at the time of inspections, there is little proactive action on the part of the MCI to deal with this malady.
"Against this backdrop, the Committee is of the firm view that the two major areas--medical education and practice of ethical conduct by the medical profession should be bifurcated so that they receive full attention," it said.
The Committee is of view that "in order to earn back the respect, the medical profession has lost, concerted action is needed with proactive steps being taken and implemented".
The Committee also observed that the current accountability mechanisms are not sufficient to ensure observance of ethical practices by the health facilities. Also, the individual doctors and hospitals, pass the onus to the other when anything goes wrong.
The Committee therefore recommended that the new Board of Medical Ethics should be mandated to develop standards and norms of professional conduct and code of ethics for medical practice not only for individual doctors but also for institutions of health service delivery like hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.
The Committee also noted there was a lack of clarity in the functioning of state Medical Councils and the MCI when it came to taking disciplinary action. It said complaints against doctors needed to be attended to on time and action taken without delay.