Finally, the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) had taken serious cognisance of the matter wherein four qualified pathologists were allowing laboratories to use their name and manual or electronic signature in return for money. All four doctors were present in the MMC office on Saturday for a hearing in front of the ethical committee. The panel then decided to file a chargesheet against the doctors. The MMC has now asked the doctors to be present for the next hearing, to be held in front of the executive committee, with legal aid. MMC is a statutory body that has power to suspend a doctor's license if found guilty of malpractice. Over 70,000 doctors are registered with the MMC, and only they can practise in Maharashtra.
dna had first revealed how some pathologists from across the state were violating rules to generate extra income. The paper has been running a series to highlight the issue since March 2014. Many pathology laboratories across the state are taking people for a ride. Lab technicians, and not pathologists, sign reports. dna found this illegal practice rampant in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Panvel, and Borivli. Sources from MMC said, "If the MMC ethical committee has decided to file a chargesheet, it means prima facie the panel found some manipulation. Now the case will be heard by the executive committee, where the doctors will be allowed to bring in lawyers for their defense. If the doctors are found guilty during this hearing, they will be punished as per MMC rules."
The Maharashtra Association of Practicing Pathologists and Microbiologists (MAPPM), an umbrella body of qualified pathologists, had filed the complaint against the four doctors. MAPPM president Dr Sandeep Yadav said, "We found that many qualified pathologists were allowing laboratories to use their name and manual or electronic signature in return for money. These doctors had never even visited the laboratories. Anyone can open a pathology laboratory today. The person has to acquire a Shops and Establishments License from the municipal corporation and show that they have a pathologist on rolls. In reality, there is no full-time qualified pathologist or part-time pathologist working in such labs. The lab technicians just use the electronic signature to prepare a report. For this, they pay money to these pathologists."
"In an ideal state of affairs, lab technicians are only supposed to collect samples. They don't have the know-how of pathology. Legally, they cannot carry out any investigation, forget signing reports. Those who are doing this are playing with the lives of people," he added. There are more than 15,000 path labs across the state, of which 1,600 operate out of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane.
What the law says
Pathology is part of modern medicine. The Medical Council of India (MCI) allows only registered medical practitioners holding a PG degree in pathology to practise. The Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), too, endorses it. In 2005, the Bombay High Court had ruled that only qualified pathologists, recognised by MCI and MMC, can certify pathology reports.