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Medical ethics : On the Back Seat

Ideally the doctors can provide the healing touch to the ailing humanity and they only can make the difference between life and death. While addressing the 46th Annual Convocation of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India said the young doctors must bear in mind the need to uphold ethics and treat every patient with compassion and empathy, irrespective of his or her financial background. That is true, Mr. Naidu has given right advice, but how it would work on the ground is a difficult question. In these days, when medical ethics is merged with business strategy, the message has a value. But how deep the message will sink in the minds of the fraternity cannot be assessed. Medical study is expensive, too expensive for middle class family. That forces parents of medical students to borrow money from banks. By the time the course is over and the student begins to earn the debt skyrockets. The debt has to be repaid with interest. The doctors will have no option but to focus on earning through all available sources including by way of commission from drug makers as well as from diagnostic and pathology businesses. The ethics would take only the back seat

India has excellent doctors and admirable medical institutes. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences is one of them. It is an institution which has made the nation proud and achieved excellence in patient care, teaching and research, he rightly said. The quality can be improved further through constant upgrading of the curriculum in medical education in tune with the latest advancements. The curriculum developed at AIIMS can be adopted by other AIIMS like institutions and other medical colleges, he says.

If healthcare is a business, doctors cannot preach ethics. If medical education is costlier, new gen doctors are not expected to be benevolent. As medicine, treatment devices and medical instruments are trading commodities, there would be plenty of middle men for commercial gains.

India has to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable. This is a paradoxical situation when it comes to health sector. There is a significant urban-rural divide and referred a report of PWC reports point out, “India has only 1.1 beds per 1000 population compared to the world average of 2.7. Seventy per cent of India’s healthcare infrastructure is in the top 20 cities. “We have to bridge this urban-rural divide in providing state-of-the-art healthcare services, he points out. When India is making rapid strides in medical tourism with people from other countries coming to our country for a range of treatments from liver transplant to knee replacement, the same treatment is out of reach for many Indians. We need to overcome this paradoxical situation by ensuring that treatment is affordable for all Indians.

Promoting manufacturing of state-of-the-art devices and equipment in the country, particularly under the ‘Make in India’ program will not only save precious foreign exchange but also bring down the costs of the devices.


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