Published in IJCP October 2021
MEDICOLEGAL
Professional Duties and Responsibilities
October 25, 2021 |
     


What should be the character attributes of a doctor as defined by the MCI?

Section 1.1 of MCI Code of Ethics Regulations 2002 has defined the character of doctors.

1.1.1 A physician shall uphold the dignity and honour of his profession.

1.1.2 The prime object of the medical profession is to render service to humanity; reward or financial gain is a subordinate consideration. Who-so-ever chooses his profession, assumes the obligation to conduct himself in accordance with its ideals. A physician should be an upright man, instructed in the art of healings. He shall keep himself pure in character and be diligent in caring for the sick; he should be modest, sober, patient, prompt in discharging his duty without anxiety; conducting himself with propriety in his profession and in all the actions of his life.

Can a person who has obtained qualification in any other system of medicine practice modern system of medicine?

No, a person who holds a degree in other systems of medicine cannot practice modern system of medicine or Allopathy. Section 1.1.3 of the Indian Medical Council Act is very clear on this issue.

1.1.3 No person other than a doctor having qualification recognised by Medical Council of India and registered with Medical Council of India/State Medical Council (s) is allowed to practice Modern system of Medicine or Surgery. A person obtaining qualification in any other system of Medicine is not allowed to practice Modern system of Medicine in any form.

Is membership in a medical society/association mandatory for a doctor?

The MCI has issued guidelines in this regard as below.

1.2.2 Membership in Medical Society: For the advancement of his profession, a physician should affiliate with associations and societies of allopathic medical professions and involve actively in the functioning of such bodies.

1.2.3 A physician should participate in professional meetings as part of Continuing Medical Education programmes, for at least 30 hours every five years, organized by reputed professional academic bodies or any other authorized organisations. The compliance of this requirement shall be informed regularly to Medical Council of India or the State Medical Councils as the case may be.

Are you guilty of evading any other law?

1.9 Evasion of Legal Restrictions: The physician shall observe the laws of the country in regulating the practice of medicine and shall also not assist others to evade such laws. He should be cooperative in observance and enforcement of sanitary laws and regulations in the interest of public health. A physician should observe the provisions of the State Acts like Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; Pharmacy Act, 1948; Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances Act, 1985; Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971; Transplantation of Human Organ Act, 1994; Mental Health Act, 1987; Environmental Protection Act, 1986; Pre-natal Sex Determination Test Act, 1994; Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954; Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Full Participation) Act, 1995 and Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and such other Acts, Rules, Regulations made by the Central/State Governments or local Administrative Bodies or any other relevant Act relating to the protection and promotion of public health.

What are the duties of a physician towards his/her patients?

As per Chapter 2 of the Indian Medical Council Act.

2.1 Obligations to the Sick:

2.1.1 Though a physician is not bound to treat each and every person asking his services, he should not only be ever ready to respond to the calls of the sick and the injured, but should be mindful of the high character of his mission and the responsibility he discharges in the course of his professional duties. In his treatment, he should never forget that the health and the lives of those entrusted to his care depend on his skill and attention. A physician should endeavour to add to the comfort of the sick by making his visits at the hour indicated to the patients. A physician advising a patient to seek service of another physician is acceptable; however, in case of emergency a physician must treat the patient. No physician shall arbitrarily refuse treatment to a patient. However for good reason, when a patient is suffering from an ailment which is not within the range of experience of the treating physician, the physician may refuse treatment and refer the patient to another physician.

2.1.2 Medical practitioner having any incapacity detrimental to the patient or which can affect his performance vis-à-vis the patient is not permitted to practice his profession.

Can a doctor divulge information about the patient that he has learnt during consultation?

As per section 2.2 Patience, Delicacy and Secrecy, a doctor should not divulge any information about the patient that he has come across during his consultation.

2.2 Patience, Delicacy and Secrecy: Patience and delicacy should characterize the physician. Confidences concerning individual or domestic life entrusted by patients to a physician and defects in the disposition or character of patients observed during medical attendance should never be revealed unless their revelation is required by the laws of the State. Sometimes, however, a physician must determine whether his duty to society requires him to employ knowledge, obtained through confidence as a physician, to protect a healthy person against a communicable disease to which he is about to be exposed. In such instance, the physician should act as he would wish another to act toward one of his own family in like circumstances.

Is the doctor bound to attend every patient?

A doctor is not bound to attend every patient. As per Section 2.4, The Patient must not be neglected: “A physician is free to choose whom he will serve. He should, however, respond to any request for his assistance in an emergency. Once having undertaken a case, the physician should not neglect the patient, nor should he withdraw from the case without giving adequate notice to the patient and his family. Provisionally or fully registered medical practitioner shall not willfully commit an act of negligence that may deprive his patient or patients from necessary medical care.”

When should a treating doctor seek a consultation?

Unnecessary consultations should be avoided as per section 3.1. However in case of serious illness and in doubtful or difficult conditions, the physician should request consultation, but under any circumstances such consultation should be justifiable and in the interest of the patient only and not for any other consideration (Section 3.1.1). Consulting pathologists/radiologists or asking for any other diagnostic Lab investigation should be done judiciously and not in a routine manner (Section 3.1.2).

In every consultation, the benefit to the patient is of foremost importance. All physicians engaged in the case should be frank with the patient and his attendants (Section 3.2).

Can a patient complain about the doctor making him wait for a consultation?

Yes; doctors should be punctual so that patients do not have to wait for a long time to see their doctor. Section 3.3 Punctuality in Consultation says, “Utmost punctuality should be observed by a physician in making themselves available for consultations.”

Should difference of opinion after consultation be conveyed to the patient?

Section 3.4 Statement to Patient after Consultation clarifies this as below.

3.4.1 All statements to the patient or his representatives should take place in the presence of the consulting physicians, except as otherwise agreed. The disclosure of the opinion to the patient or his relatives or friends shall rest with the medical attendant. 

3.4.2 Differences of opinion should not be divulged unnecessarily but when there is irreconcilable difference of opinion the circumstances should be frankly and impartially explained to the patient or his relatives or friends. It would be opened to them to seek further advice as they so desire.

What are the MCI guidelines regarding fees and other charges?

3.7 Fees and other charges:

3.7.1 A physician shall clearly display his fees and other charges on the board of his chamber and/or the hospitals he is visiting. Prescription should also make clear if the Physician himself dispensed any medicine.

What the responsibilities of doctors towards each other?

Chapter 4 of the MCI Act talks about the responsibilities of physicians to each other and states as follows: “A physician should consider it as a pleasure and privilege to render gratuitous service to all physicians and their immediate family dependants.”

4.2 Conduct in consultation: In consultations, no insincerity, rivalry or envy should be indulged in. All due respect should be observed towards the physician in-charge of the case and no statement or remark be made, which would impair the confidence reposed in him. For this purpose no discussion should be carried on in the presence of the patient or his representatives.