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Ready to include `non-medical' members, MCI tells apex court

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI NOV. 26. The Medical Council of India has informed the Supreme Court that it has accepted the suggestion of the Attorney-General, Soli Sorabjee, to have "non-medical" members in its council and all the State councils to ensure that doctors are made more accountable than in the present set-up.

Mr. Sorabjee had made certain suggestions in the apex court during the hearing of a public interest petition by Malay Ganguly, secretary, People for Better Treatment, and the court had sought the MCI's response.

On Tuesday, on behalf of the MCI, a Bench comprising Justices Shivraj Patil and D.M. Dharmadhikari, was informed that it had agreed to the suggestions and that the Centre could even come out with a gazette notification to effect the changes suggested by Mr. Sorabjee.

The People for Better Treatment, a social organisation was started by the U.S.-based Indian doctor Kunal Saha, after the death of his wife, Anuradha Saha, due to medical negligence five years ago.

Dr. Ganguly also lost his wife due to medical negligence and being resident in India, the PIL has been filed through him, Dr. Saha said.

The PIL contended that for larger accountability of doctors involved in several medical negligence cases across the country and to safeguard the interest of a complainant against "perceived bias" of the medical fraternity who might not want to "let down" a fellow doctor, "non-medical" members from amongst leading citizens from other walks of society should be appointed in all the State medical councils and the MCI as it has been done in almost all advanced and developed countries.

In the light of suggestions submitted by the Attorney-General, the Bench said two new sections in Chapter 8 (Punishment and Disciplinary Action) of the MCI Code of Ethics Regulations for the doctors should be added by a Gazette Notification through the Union of India within six weeks.

There are now six sections (8.1-8.6) in the Chapter and the proposed new Section 8.7 will allow automatic transfer of complaints against errant doctors to the MCI in case a complaint is not decided within the six-month time limit by the State Medical Council concerned.

Further, Section 8.8 will allow any victim of medical negligence to appeal before the MCI if the complainant feels that justice has not been served by the State Medical Council.

The Bench granted permission to the petitioner to file a representation before the Union of India seeking inclusion of non-medical persons in every medical council. It said if the Central Government did not act on the suggestion of the petitioner, he would be at liberty to approach the apex court.

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