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Developing World

Seen and not heard

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 12 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1295
  1. Sanjay Kumar (, freelance journalist1
  1. 1 New Delhi 110026, India

    Sanjay Kumar interviews Dr Arun Bal, patients' rights campaigner in Mumbai, India, who is a founder member and former president of the Association for Consumers' Action on Safety and Health (ACASH), founder member of the Forum for Medical Ethics, and former editor of Issues in Medical Ethics. After qualifying in surgery, Dr Bal entered private practice in 1977 and for 18 years (1979 to 1996) regularly provided his surgical skills in areas of rural India. Specialising in the diabetic foot for the past 15 years, he is president of the Diabetic Foot Society of India

    SK: What are the main concerns, obstacles, and challenges facing patient empowerment in India?

    AB: The main concerns are rampant commercialisation of the medical profession, indiscriminate use of high technology, and absence of any self regulation. The statutory regulation is not working. In fact, one finds that the patients are at the receiving end. We receive complaints from patients, for instance, that cataract surgery is advised with phacoemulsification technique when independent examination finds no cataract. The main challenge is to improve the doctor-patient communication, which at present is one sided.

    SK: How does the developing country situation differ from that in the developed world in your view?

    AB: In the developed world there are patient rights groups with a strong base, and the general awareness level is very high. The statutory controls as well as …

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