n a first-of-its-kind case, the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC), based on a complaint of medical negligence, has warned a doctor from a private hospital in the city against promoting drugs from a particular company to her patients, failing which her licence would be revoked.
The KMC issued a whip against Dr Leela Bhagavan, obstetrician and gynaecologist, practicing at Cloudnine Maternity and Pregnancy Hospital at Jayanagar, after the husband of a patient, who was under Dr Bhagavan's treatment, filed a complaint. The woman had gone into labour in the 22nd week of pregnancy and delivered stillborn babies.
Earlier too, patients have taken to social media to criticise Dr Bhagavan, alleging she used to prescribe Amway products, even when unwarranted. Investigation revealed she used to ask patients to use only Amway products and several of these were unnecessary.
Council president Dr Veerbhadrappa said, "The case came to us a couple of months ago and we have warned her under Section 6.1 of the Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002, which prohibits a doctor from advertising a particular product. We, however, did not establish any facts that would prove medical negligence in the case. But we found out that she does not have a qualified degree to practise as an obstetrician. The one she currently has is from Dublin. We have asked her to practice as an MBBS doctor."
She was reportedly involved in promotion of products to most pregnant mothers and was clearly working in the interests of the multi-level marketing company. Another official from the Council said, "The patient showed us videos and photographs of how she used to conduct presentations to patients about the benefits of these products, which is against the law. We are planning a bigger crackdown on doctors indulging in such behaviour." As of now, 15 complaints pertaining to doctors involved in pushing particular drugs are pending with the council.
'I was ensuring safer pregnancies'
When we contacted Dr Bhagavan, she said, "The Amway products I was prescribing were organic in nature and benefited expectant mothers. They were basically iron, Vitamin D tablets, Omega-3 fatty acids, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which would work positively on brain development of the foetus. These were also meant to provide additional benefits to the mother as most Indian mothers are anaemic. By prescribing these tablets, I was just ensuring a safer pregnancy. I have anyway stopped prescribing the medicines as they are off the shelves in India now."
On the directive to stop practising as an obstetrician, she said she would obtain a stay order on the same.
What does the Code of Ethics say?
A physician shall not give to any person, whether for compensation or otherwise, any approval, recommendation, endorsement, certificate, report or statement with respect to any drug, medicine, nostrum remedy, surgical, or therapeutic article, apparatus or appliance or any commercial product or article with respect of any property, quality or use thereof or any test, demonstration or trial thereof, for use in connection with his name, signature, or photograph in any form or manner of advertising through any mode nor shall he boast of cases, operations, cures or remedies or permit the publication of report thereof through any mode.
A Cloudnine spokesperson said, "Dr Leela's MBBS degree is valid and she can practice gynaecology and obstetrics as per order sent by the respected body of Karnataka Medical Council (KMC) Ref No. KMC / RTI/36/2014 dated 02/10/20154. Whatever supplements Dr Leela had recommended to the patient was in her personal capacity and Cloudnine doesn't endorse it."