Feature Corruption in India

Whistleblowing in India: what protections can doctors who raise concerns expect?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h763 (Published 24 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h763
  1. Patralekha Chatterjee, journalist, New Delhi
  1. patralekha.chatterjee{at}gmail.com

Healthcare professionals should be helped to speak up if they become aware of threats to patient safety or wrongdoing, but how easy is it for doctors in India to raise such concerns in practice? Patralekha Chatterjee reports

Whistleblowing—raising concerns about research misconduct, clinical practices that harm patients, or financial fraud—is not easy. Patients can benefit, but employers and the authorities may be less than supportive of doctors who bring unethical practices or unsafe care to light. More enlightened employers are coming to realise that helping employees to raise concerns can not only improve patient safety but help avoid damage to institutional reputation and costly lawsuits.

“We will not get people to expose poor practice or misconduct unless they have proper protection,” the seasoned British whistleblower Peter Wilmshurst told The BMJ. “Many whistleblowers have become unemployed and poor, with their careers destroyed. I do not know one who has fared well,” he said, adding that protections should include “sanctions against those who victimise and bully whistleblowers.”

Reluctance to speak out

Reluctance to speak out against fellow healthcare professionals, especially doctors or the managers of healthcare institutions, stems from fears that it could lead to harassment of or disciplinary action against the complainant and may damage career prospects (box). In extreme cases, whistleblowers have been found dead in suspicious circumstances. For example, two chief medical officers were murdered in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 after officials had raised concerns about alleged corruption surrounding the National Rural Health Mission.1

Indian medical whistleblowers

  • Sanjiv Chaturvedi, chief vigilance officer at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, was sacked in 2014 after he had blown the whistle on corruption. The health ministry denies that his departure was linked to his determination to expose malpractice.2 The newly elected Delhi government wants to appoint him as top anti-corruption officer, which will require approval …

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