Feature Corruption in Healthcare

India turns spotlight on kickbacks for referrals

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5265 (Published 27 August 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5265
  1. Vidya Krishnan, journalist, New Delhi
  1. vidyakrishnan13{at}gmail.com

Vidya Krishnan reports on undercover television exposés, a government inquiry, and a country demanding change

On Friday 1 August, India’s health minister, Harsh Vardhan, told both houses of parliament that the ministry would conduct an “impartial inquiry” into allegations of unethical practices and the influence of money in clinical decision making.

He added, “We don’t need [additional] medical regulatory mechanisms. It is important that they [the existing mechanisms] function effectively.” The Medical Council of India is responsible for ensuring that registered medical practitioners follow ethical norms as well as for setting standards in medical education, recognition of medical institutions, and registration and accreditation of medical practitioners.

“The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare does not accept a broadbrush depiction of the medical community as guilty of such malpractices. However . . . some individuals who are indulging in such unethical conduct should be identified and disqualified from practising,” Vardhan said.

Corruption harms patients

Vardhan was speaking after The BMJ called for doctors to fight back, describing the harm to patients caused by pervasive corruption in India’s health sector in two articles published in May and June.1 2

“Doctors have allowed sleeping dogs to lie for too long because of fear, lethargy, and complicity. It is time to reflect and hold ourselves and our peers accountable. Professional standards of conduct must be instilled,” the editorial insisted.1

Between them the articles have received more than 60 responses on thebmj.com.3 4 Sanjay Nagral, a surgeon at the department of surgical gastroenterology at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai, posted, “Such practices increase the already high cost of healthcare for the vast majority of Indians, who pay out of pocket, as the corruption burden is often passed on to the patient . . . There is no shortcut here but to build awareness and resistance among …

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