It is reported by the media today that Modi Govt. is hatching a new and big plan to overhaul the Medical Council of India (MCI) by stripping their supreme healthcare regulatory authority (as per the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956)and to replace it with a different independent body for better efficiency and to avoid conflict of interests (see below). This would be a hugely positive change the way it has been painted by the government but will it? Or is it another familiar story of putting the old wine in a new bottle?
Since the BJP-led Modi government came to power, there has been little or no evidence that they are eager to cleanse the long-standing rot inside the MCI and entire healthcare delivery system except perhaps the recent introduction of the 3-member Oversight Committee to look into the function of the MCI. But Modi government had nothing to do with the Oversight Committee as it was formed at the specific direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court – last hope for justice for the millions of hapless patients in India. In fact, like the previous Congress-led government, corruption has continued to thrive in medical education and healthcare delivery system during the tenure of the Modi government. Despite PBT’s repeated appeals and lawsuits (PILs) against the MCI and Health Ministry, disgraced and criminally-indicted ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, is still pulling all the strings inside the MCI. Government has remained a silent spectator as Dr. Desai is promoted to the prestigious post of the president-elect for the World Medical Association (WMA) by top medical leaders in the MCI and IMA despite Dr. Desai’s medical registration remains suspended since his arrest by the CBI in 2010. We have seen no real action against any of the corrupt members in the healthcare system by the present government. We hope that the proposed change to dismantle the corrupt MCI is done without any sinister motive by the government only to save the vulnerable patients and not to hoodwink the ordinary people of India.
Financial Express (July 16, 2016)
In a scathing article published this month on different healthcare scandals across the globe, the Washington, DC-based “Center for Global Development” has reported wide-spread corruption with major government healthcare projects in India (see full report below). While the report has underscored scandals and stealing of millions of dollars from important healthcare projects by unscrupulous medical personnel and government officials in different countries, the 61-page article has specifically reviewed the pitiful medical situation in India (see page 14-20 in the report). The World Body has reported that huge amount of money provided by the World Bank was looted by the corrupt officials involved with the HIV/AIDS projects regulated by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) as well as the Malaria Control and Child Health projects in India. The report has highlighted that how connivance between the high-rank government officials and debauched private healthcare professionals has ripped off enormous amount of money from the benevolent medical projects in India. Defining as “serious indicators of fraud and corruption”, this report by a reputed international body has cited the specific example of serious complaints raised by PBT president and US-based HIV/AIDS specialist, Dr. Kunal Saha, who investigated allegations of fraud with HIV test kits in India as a member of the World Bank investigation team (see page 14-15). PBT has long been fighting against healthcare corruption in India through public interest litigations (PILs) and awareness programs across India.
Review (Health Corruption) Washington DC June, 2016 (HIV-Saha)
“Patients’ Day” (Rogi Divas) is celebrated each year on 28th May to enhance public awareness about legal rights of all patients and to bring a message of hope for justice for all victims of “medical negligence”. “Rogi Divas” was initiated to commemorate death of Anuradha Saha who died on this day in 1998 due to gross medical negligence by several senior Kolkata doctors. To celebrate this year’s “Rogi Divas”, PBT will hold an open public forum on 5 pm on 28th May, 2016 (Saturday) at the Calcutta Press Club near Maidan, Kolkata. People and victims of medical negligence across India are also encouraged to observe this day for empowerment of all patients.
PBT also encourages everybody to learn about fundamental rights of all patients most of which are enlisted under MCI “Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002” (see the MCI Codes below). Many doctors in India are also unaware about the legal and/or ethical responsibilities toward their patients as enumerated in the MCI Codes. This year in this program, PBT has organized a discussion seminar where many registered physicians who have lost their loved ones from alleged “medical negligence” will tell their personal stories as they stand on the victims’ side in search of medical justice. Admission is open to all for attending the Rogi Divas program in Kolkata. For more information, please contact 9143650171, 9831983670 or 9836706952.
MCI Code of Medical Ethics, 2002
The World Medical Association (WMA) is holding their Council meeting this week at Buenos Aires, Argentina. PBT obtained information that disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, joined the WMA meeting along with several top MCI and Indian Medical Association (IMA) leaders including MCI Grievance Committee chairman, Dr. Ajay Kumar, and IMA Secretary General, Dr. K.K. Aggarwal (see picture from Sheraton Hotel in Buenos Aires below with Dr. Desai sitting in the middle as Dr. Aggarwal (with cap) and Dr. Kumar sitting on each side). PBT filed a public interest litigation (PIL) recently after IMA leaders pushed Dr. Desai to become WMA president-elect for 2016 through fraudulent claim that all charges against Dr. Desai have been dropped by the Indian authority.
Dr. Desai is still waiting for criminal trial on serious charges of bribery and corruption after he was caught red-handed by the CBI for taking bribe from a private medical college in 2010 in exchange of granting MCI recognition when he was still the sitting MCI president. Following his arrest by the CBI, Board of Governors (BOG) also indefinitely suspended Dr. Desai’s medical registration after PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, lodged a formal complaint for ethical violation against Dr. Desai. Despite having suspended medical license and facing criminal trial, present MCI and IMA leaders are shamelessly helping Dr. Desai to restore his grossly dented public image and to bring him back to the helm of MCI/IMA. Although Delhi High Court dismissed our PIL last month against the alleged collusion between Desai, MCI/IMA leaders and WMA on the untenable plea that no “public interest” is involved in this case,PBT is all set to challenge this capricious decision before the Supreme Court of India. But obvious questions remain – Can leaders of MCI/IMA openly help a criminally-indicted doctor with suspended medical license (Ketan Desai) to regain the top post in the world medical body? We also wonder who are bearing the cost for these lavish foreign trips by our medical leaders including Dr. Ketan Desai?
Desai-Ajay-Aggarwal (WMA Conf. April, 2016)
The high-power Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health & Family Welfare (PSCHF) issued a scathing report last month on the presence of wide-spread corruption inside the Medical Council of India (MCI) and recommended that “urgent measures” should be taken to include “non-doctor” members in the MCI to prevent the “cronyism and corruption” by the unscrupulous medical members in the council. PBT also sent an urgent memorandum to the Health Ministry for immediate implementation of the recommendation by the PSCHF for reconstruction of the MCI to include “non-doctor” members from the society. Unfortunately, it appears that the Health Ministry is in no mood to bring any change in the MCI as they have remained silent for more than one month and did not even respond to our urgent “memorandum”.
PBT has submitted a final notice today directly to Mr. J.P. Nadda, central health minister, demanding investigation as to why his office did not act even after receiving our previous memorandum and also seeking his immediate intervention to take necessary measures to reconstruct the MCI with inclusion of “non-doctor” members within 2 weeks failing which PBT would be compelled to move the appropriate court of law for the ends of justice (see PBT’s notice to Mr. Nadda below).
It is a common knowledge today that the leaders of the present MCI are well-known cronies of the disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, who is still free on bail waiting for the start of his criminal trial for alleged bribery and corruption since 2010 when he was caught red-handed while taking huge bribe from a private medical college. With the recent declaration by the Supreme Court that a common entrance test (NEET) under the MCI can be used for admission to all medical colleges, there can be no doubt that power and influence of the MCI as well as threats for spread of even more corruption would be significantly higher unless a more honest and transparent MCI is reconstructed by inclusion of “non-doctor” members as strongly recommended by the Parliamentary Committee. Will the Health Minister and Prime Minister stand up for the occasion?
Letter to Health Minister (April 16, 2016)
Hearing a review petition earlier this week, a 5-member Supreme Court bench has allowed, pending final judgment, for re-introduction of single National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) under sole control of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for admission in all graduate and post-graduate medical course in India. While PBT principally supports the idea of a common merit-based examination for admission in all medical colleges because it is likely to weed out unmeritorious students from wealthy families to become doctors by bribing leaders of political parties and owners of private medical colleges, but such an nation-wide NEET examination under control of the MCI, presently governed by unscrupulous members elected through a rigged election under the leadership of Dr. Ketan Desai, could open up even bigger doors for healthcare corruption.
In fact, soon after delivery of this interim order by the Apex Court, Indian Medical Association (IMA), which is ruled by Ketan Desai cronies, have already started a massive propaganda to promote Ketan Desai who is still waiting for criminal trial for alleged bribery and corruption since he was caught red-handed in 2010 for taking money from a private medical college while still working as MCI president. The Times of India (TOI) published from Desai’s home town, Ahmedabad, published an interview of Dr. Desai in which he has made boisterous claims that NEET will elevate the standard of medical education etc. (see the TOI report below). It is ironic that the biggest medical mafia in Indian history who is still facing criminal prosecution for bribery and corruption has started giving lecture on merit of doctors and so-called reputed newspapers have also started touting for the tainted doctor without even mentioning that Dr. Desai has been criminally indicted or that he is presently free on bail facing criminal prosecution. Tainted money and corruption Our PIL against the botched MCI election is still pending before the Apex Court as it is listed for final hearing on 4th July, 2016 after the Supreme Court opens following summer vacation.
TOI (April 13, 2016)
Lancet, top international medical journal published from United Kingdom, has published a scathing report this week highlighting the deep-rooted corruption and gross inefficiency in the Medical Medical Council (MCI) in view of the recent findings by a multi-party high-powered Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare (see the Lancet report and related news report below). Apart from severe criticism of the way medical education and complaints of medical negligence are handled by the biased doctor-only members of the medical council, the report has underscored the wide-spread corruption that has plagued the MCI for a very long time including the serious case of bribery for which the disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, was arrested by the CBI in 2010. Ironically, the criminal case of bribery against Dr. Desai is still waiting for trial to begin as Dr. Desai roams free on bail. The report has also called the need for inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the medical councils in the manner it is done in most developed countries including USA and UK. PBT president has pressed the need for inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the medical councils in order to bring transparency and fairness in the Ethical Committee while Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, Indian Medical Association (IMA) secretary-general and a staunch defender of Dr. Desai, has claimed that medical councils should be made only by elected members from the medical fraternity.
Lancet (April, 2016)
TOI (April 8, 2016)
Under pressure from the recent scathing report about Medical Council of India (MCI) corruption and recommendation to revamp the MCI by a multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare (PSC), prime minister’s office (PMO) has formed a 4-member panel to look into the serious issues raised in the PSC report and to take necessary measures to restructure MCI (see news report below). Ironically, all four members of the high-power panel are government insiders headed by Arvind Panagariya, supremo of National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog,governmental organization established by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, with the laudatory goal to eradicate corruption and transform India. One of the main recommendations in the PSC report was to bring “transparency” in order to build an honest and efficient healthcare regulatory system like the MCI. By excluding any member from the opposition political parties or from any independent non-governmental organizations like PBT, there is no reason to believe that the new government panel will act in a different manner to promote transparency and honesty to overhaul the healthcare system or stem the deep-rooted “rot” in the MCI.
In view of the PSC report that also recommended for immediate inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the MCI and state medical councils (SMCs), PBT submitted an urgent representation with the central health ministry last month urging them to take imminent steps to include “non-doctor” members in the medical councils as it is also a routine practice in the developed countries. Under the present system of doctor-only medical councils across India, corrupt and influential medical leaders of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) including the disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai and his medical cronies, have taken over the MCI and most SMCs as corruption has thrived with the standard of medical education continues to fall and incidence of medical negligence continues to rise as the medical councils function only to shield their errant colleagues without giving any heed to the pain and suffering of the hapless patients.
Almost one month has passed, health ministry has not even sent any response to our demand for inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the medical councils. Two separate public interest litigations (PILs) filed by the PBT against corruption inside the MCI and collusion between Dr. Ketan Desai and present MCI members are pending before the Supreme Court of India. If the health ministry remains silent to our demand for inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the medical councils, PBT would be compelled to move the third PIL before the Apex Court to change the abysmal status of our healthcare delivery system. But we still hope that prime minister would rise to this occasion by taking meaningful and stringent action against the pervasive medical corruption. Making another hog-washing new panel only with inside players in the most partisan and non-transparent fashion cannot build any confidence that MCI would become an honest body to protect the vulnerable patients anytime soon.
Indian Express (April 2016)
The historic criminal case filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”) and Section 201 (“giving false information to screen offender”)filed against almost the entire West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) including then state council president, Dr. Ashok Chowdhury, has been fixed for final hearing before the Apex Court on Monday, April 11, 2016 (SC SLP Cri. No. 8024/2013; Ashok Kumar Chowdhury & Ors. vs. Kunal Saha & Anr.). In 2011, a trial court in Kolkata found 17 doctor-members of WBMC prima facie guilty for “criminal conspiracy” while acquitting Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, a senior physician who was found guilty by the Supreme Court in 2009 for medical negligence causing death of Anuradha Saha, wife of PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha. However, Medical Council of India (MCI) later overturned the WBMC’s decision by holding Dr. Mukherjee (and two other senior doctors who have since died) guilty for medical negligence and directed to cancel his medical registration for a period of three months.
The WBMC, headed by then council president Dr. Ashok Chowdhury, found absolutely no fault with the treatment of Dr. Mukherjee in a closed-door meeting in 2002. While 17 doctor-members gave a clean chit to Dr. Mukherjee, only 2 members found the doctor guilty. The WBMC also refused to disclose any information about their closed-door investigation process even after Dr. Saha sought the information under the RTI Act, 2005. However, after the CPM-led government (where all doctor-members belonged) was toppled in West Bengal in 2011, information about the investigation of the complaint against Dr. Mukherjee was released by the newly formed WBMC where all members were backed by the anti-CPM Trinomial Congress party. Based on the evidence that nearly showed that the WBMC had conducted a sham investigation only to shield the accused doctor, Dr. Saha filed a criminal case under IPC Sections 120b and 201 against the 17 doctors who voted to exonerate Dr. Mukherjee.
After the trial court in Kolkata took cognizance of the criminal complaint against the 17 doctor-members of WBMC and issued warrants against them, the accused WBMC doctors moved Calcutta High Court to quash the complaint. The Calcutta High Court also dismissed the quashing petition in 2013 and directed the charged doctors to stand for trial, the criminally-indicted doctors moved the Supreme Court challenging the Calcutta High Court decision. After another long delay for more than two years, this historic case will now be decided by the Apex Court next month. It is a common knowledge that medical councils across India have turned into a den of corruption that primarily function to shield the negligent doctors without caring for the lives of the innocent victims of “medical negligence”. There can be no dispute that the unprecedented criminal case against the 17 doctor-members of WBMC may have enormous impact on the deep-rooted corruption inside the MCI and state medical councils.
In a 126-page long investigative report presented before the Rajya Sabha this week, multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare (PSCHF) has found wide-spread corruption inside the Medical Council of India (MCI) and State Medical Councils (SMCs) that has crippled the entire medical education and healthcare delivery system in India. The scathing PSCHF report has made several recommendations to improve the present healthcare situation. The Committee has strongly recommended that there is an urgent need for inclusion of “non-doctor” members from the society to be part of the MCI and SMCs. The Committee has found that doctor-only medical council members have shown biased attitude and failed to take necessary disciplinary action against their errant medical colleagues.
The Committee has also underscored that medical councils in most developed countries including UK, Australia and USA have significant number of members from the non-doctor members of the society to assure that medical councils must fact in an honest and transparent manner. PBT has long been fighting for inclusion of non-doctor members in the medical council. In view of the PSCHF report, PBT president has sent an urgent memorandum to the health ministry today urging them to take immediate steps to reconstitute the medical councils with “non-doctor” members failing which PBT will bring this to the appropriate legal forum for the ends of justice (see PBT’s memorandum below).
Let to Health Ministry (March, 2016)
In a historic judgment delivered yesterday, the West Bengal Consumer Commission has awarded Rs. 25.5 lakh (including litigation cost of Rs. 50 thousand) to the widow of a government worker who died due to a botched brain surgery and follow up treatment by Dr. Alok Kumar Khan, senior neurosurgeon and ex-head of Neurosurgery at R.G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, a government medical college in Kolkata. This case was fought by PBT after the victim’s widow with two young children came to PBT seeking help as the family was devastated following the unexpected death of her husband. In fact, PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, personally appeared and argued the case before the State Commission last December coming all the way from his permanent residence in USA.
Another unique aspect of this case is that the guilty physician, Dr. Khan, chose not to appear before the consumer court as he refused to accept repeated notices from the court as the case had to be decided ex perte by the State Commission. The doctor and nursing home (owned by the doctor) where the botched surgery took place in 2009 also refused to provide the medical records to the victim’s family in candid violation of law. Ironically, the West Bengal Medical Council as well as the State Health Department also remained as silent spectator despite repeated appeals for justice from the victim’s family. The court has ordered that Dr. Khan must give the compensation of Rs. 25.5 lakh to the victim’s family within 60 days failing which an interest at the rate of 9% will be added to the award (see the full judgment below). PBT has been helping victims across India to find justice and to bring an end to the rampant incidence of medical negligence and healthcare corruption.
WB State Commission Judgment (Feb, 2016) Shyamali Sikdar case
The division bench of Delhi High Court presided by chief justice, G. Rohini, adjourned the public interest litigation (PIL) brought by PBT against the deliberate and fraudulent attempt by top leaders of the IMA and Medical Council of India (MCI) to reinstate disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, to the prestigious post of World Medical Association (WMA) president starting October, 2016. The HC heard arguments from all parties on 9th October, 2015 including both the Ministry of Health and MCI, both of whom took the side of Dr. Desai and pleaded to dismiss the PIL on ground of “maintainability”). The HC reserved final order on the question of “maintainability” to be delivered on 2nd November, 2015. However, on 2nd November, the court adjourned the order for 6th January, 2016 but when the day came, the court again adjourned the matter to 8th February, 2016. And today (8th February, 2016), the court once again simply adjourned the delivery of order to 3rd March, 2016.
The principal prayer in this historic PIL is to direct the Govt. of India and MCI for taking necessary steps to stop Dr. Desai from becoming WMA president in October because it was allegedly planned through fraudulent claim by high-rank MCI and IMA members that all charges against Dr. Desai (for allegedly taking bribes from private medical college) have been dropped by the Indian authority. We are concerned that this PIL may become absolutely infructuous if this matter is delayed further because Dr. Desai would assume the top post in the world medical body despite facing serious criminal charges and despite having his medical registration still suspended by the MCI.
Large number of doctors under Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have joined a strike to settle their personal scores with the government bringing endless pain and suffering for countless patients, mostly with poor socio-economic condition as they are unable to attend pricy private hospitals. Doctors have demanded for regular salary and other benefits from the government. While PBT has no qualm with legitimate demands from the government by members of the medical fraternity, doctors should not hold defenseless patients ransom by disrupting hospital services through doctors’ strike.
PBT moved the Apex Court against “doctors’ strike” through a PIL in 2006 (SC W.P. No. 316/2006). The Apex Court agreed with the view that strike by doctors is of great public importance and while disposing the PIL in 2012, Supreme Court directed that for any doctors’ strike in the future, Health Ministry should be approached for taking appropriate disciplinary action against the striking doctors and in case the Health Ministry does not respond, Apex Court has also given “liberty” to approach the court of law. The Delhi Medical Council also issued an Order in 2010 (after PBT lodged a complaint against doctors’ strike at Safdarjung Hospital) categorically holding that doctors have no right to join strike as it also violates the provisions of MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002.
PBT has lodged a formal complaint, as directed by the Supreme Court, with the Delhi Govt. Health Minister, Mr. Satyendar Jain, asking him to take immediate action against the striking doctors to bring an end to the endless miseries for the hapless patients. If there is no response from the Delhi Health Minister within a period of 10 days, PBT will take necessary legal action as suggested by the Apex Court (see PBT’s complaint below).
Let to Delhi Health Minister (Feb 1, 2016) Doc strike
An investigative report published this week by NDTV has found continued wide-spread corruption with inspection of medical colleges by the present MCI which is still under control of disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai (see the report below). PBT has long been alleging that despite his arrest by the CBI for accepting huge bribe from a private medical college in 2010, Dr. Desai, who is still waiting for his criminal trial to begin, has managed to rule the entire MCI after he was able to put many of his long-known cronies in top positions in the MCI. In fact, Supreme Court has already issued notice against MCI and Dr. Ketan Desai in a historic PIL filed by PBT challenging the botched MCI election that helped to elect all Desai cronies at the helm of the MCI. This PIL is now waiting for final disposal at the Apex Court. In another PIL filed by the PBT which is pending for “order” on 8th February, 2016 by the Delhi High Court, serious allegations against top MCI and IMA members have been raised by the PBT for deliberately making false claim in support of Dr. Desai to make him as World Medical Association (WMA) president-elect in 2016. The findings of NDTV investigation that Dr. Desai is still controlling MCI and medical education system in India provide strong evidence in support of PBT’s contentions in both the pending PILs.
NDTV (Jan 19, 2016) MCI-Desai corruption
In the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by PBT alleging that disgraced ex-MCI chief, Dr. Ketan Desai, had rigged the last MCI election held in December, 2013 to put his hand-picked cronies at the helm of the MCI, central health ministry and MCI have filed their affidavits in the Supreme Court in which both have opposed the writ petition and defended Dr. Desai. This important PIL is expected to come for final argument in the next few weeks.
One of the principle allegations raised by the PBT is that Dr. Desai hosted a lavish dinner party at the IMA house in Delhi just the night before the election day where a printed list was circulated among all the newly elected MCI members in which specific names of doctors who would be elected to the top posts in the next day’s MCI election was categorically listed. Next day each of those candidates selected by Dr. Desai was elected, all without any contest, to their respective positions as noted in the list circulated at the dinner party the night before. While denying any foul play in the MCI election, both government and MCI have not been able to deny about the development allegedly took place at dinner party hosted by Dr. Desai as claimed by the PBT. Although we will have to wait for the final verdict from the Apex Court to uncover the entire truth, we wonder why the central government has decided to defend a grossly tainted man like Dr. Ketan Desai who is free on bail and waiting for criminal trial to face serious charges of bribery and corruption.