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Should there be rules to govern advertisements by Corporate Hospitals? NMC forms panel to decide

New Delhi: The issue of advertisements by corporate hospitals will soon be addressed by the National Medical Commission (NMC), which has now decided to form a panel to examine the issue.

The NMC panel will evaluate the nature of advertisements employed by corporate hospitals. It will examine whether there should be specific rules to govern advertisement by corporate hospitals.

The decision in this regard was taken by the Commission last week in its 12th meeting, where NMC decided to present a report in this regard to the Supreme Court following the recommendations of this newly set up panel.

This comes after the Apex Court issued a notice to the commission regarding a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Mumbai-based infertility expert Dr. Aniruddha Malpani.

Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that approaching the Apex Court bench, Dr. Malpani had highlighted that even though private medical practitioners are barred from advertising, such a restriction is not applicable to corporate hospitals.

Also Read: How to regulate advertisements by corporate hospitals? Supreme Court asks NMC, Centre

Approaching the Apex Court bench, the petitioner sought directions to frame comprehensive guidelines to be followed by the Corporate Hospitals, in order to ensure safe and ethical advertising and to have a holistic solution to the problem of illegal advertising. Further, the plea also seeks to prevent indirect branch of the statutory regulations by doctors affiliated to Corporate Hospitals.

In the plea, the petitioner claimed that as a result of unfettered advertising by Corporate hospitals, an alarming situation has been created. As per the plea, the newly emerged venture capital-funded health care start-ups have also contributed to the situation. These have created an arbitrary, intraclass distinction between medical professionals and encroached upon the rights of the patients to make informed healthcare choices, which not only results in manipulating and misleading them, but also violates Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Referring to the situation, the plea argued that these instances of unethical advertising and illegal direct/indirect solicitation of work by Corporate Hospitals are in direct contravention of Regulation 6.1.1 and 7.11 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 promulgated under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, (NMC Act, 2019) which expressly prohibit direct or indirect solicitation of work by medical practitioners whether practising independently or as part of a clinic/hospital.

The plea argued, “That this dichotomy results in a situation wherein the National Medical Commission (NMC) possesses limited to no authority over the advertising strategies employed by Corporate Hospitals. Thus, it becomes evident that, despite the uniform application of the Ethics Regulations of 2002 to all physicians without discrimination, those in association with hospitals are unfairly advantaged due to the advertising tactics employed by hospitals, thereby contravening the fundamental principles embodied in Regulation 6.1.1 and 7.11 of the Ethics Regulation of 2002. That such arbitrary intra-class distinction is in gross violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.”

Further, the plea also penned down the statement of Objects and Reasons of the NMC Act, 2019, and argued that the Statement makes it clear that the Act is meant to promote equitable and universal healthcare by making the services of medical professionals accessible to all citizens.

“However, the unfair advantage that Corporate Hospitals have over private medical practitioners, is on the contrary are indirectly giving corporate health care a boost at the cost of driving up health care costs and making healthcare unaffordable to the majority of the citizens of India, thereby making them inconsistent with the object of the NMC Act,” stated the plea.

Commenting on the matter, the petitioner Dr. Malpani told The Print, “These norms are vague and while they bar individual doctors from advertising since corporate or large hospitals are considered businesses that exploit them to advertise doctors.”

Meanwhile, when asked about this, the spokesperson of NMC, Dr. Yogender Malik told the Daily that the newly constituted panel will give its suggestions on whether there should be extensive rules governing advertisements by corporate hospitals.

The rules regarding the nature of advertisements by corporate hospitals had earlier been addressed in the National Medical Commission Registered Medical Practitioner (Professional Conduct) Regulations, 2023. However, later the Commission put these regulations on hold.

Also Read: Breaking News: NMC puts its controversial Registered Medical Practitioner (Professional Conduct) Regulations, 2023 on hold

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