Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Corruption in medicine

India’s unofficial medical watchdog shows its teeth

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 03 July 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k2774
  1. Dinsa Sachan, freelance journalist
  1. New Delhi, India
  1. dinsasachan{at}

Doctors from all over the country have joined forces to counter ubiquitous corruption in medical practice, and they’re having some success. Dinsa Sachan reports

The Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare, a group of some 300 professionals, organised its first national conference in New Delhi in April. The group’s leaders said that they’re proud to be “a part of the emerging global movement for more humane and non-commercial healthcare.” Members come from all over India and represent many specialties in the public and private health systems, although few are primary care doctors.

The alliance came into existence after 2016, when two doctors published a book, Dissenting Diagnosis. Arun Gadre and Abhay Shukla work at Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives, a non-profit organisation based in Pune that pushes for universal access to healthcare. Based on interviews with more than 70 Indian doctors, their book explored medical malpractice countrywide, including financial targets for doctors, kickbacks for referrals, and bribes from pharma companies to prescribe, all of which encourage unnecessary and potentially harmful medicine.1

Monica Thomas, a member of the alliance and a consultant neurologist at New Delhi’s Holy Family Hospital, told The BMJ that the alliance’s principal mission—to expose unethical practices in India’s booming but largely unregulated private health sector—resonates with the Right Care Alliance in the US and the Slow Medicine Movement in Brazil and Italy.

The Right Care Alliance’s doctor and patient members have been championing ethical healthcare in the US since 2013. The Slow Medicine Movement was founded in Italy in 2011. It emphasises listening to patients empathically and offering treatment that takes into account the socioeconomic and cultural factors affecting their lives.

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Speaking at the New Delhi conference, Shukla said, “Since the 1980s, healthcare in India has changed from being a professional service …

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