The Medical Council of India (MCI) has informed the Delhi High Court that it has adopted 'guidelines on sexual boundaries for doctors' as framed by the Indian Psychiatric Society to be followed by medical practitioners while examining and treating patients. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani was informed by the MCI that it has put up on its website the guidelines which state that medical practitioners should not exploit the doctor-patient relationship for any social, personal, business or personal gain.
The court asked the amicus curiae, appointed to assist it in the matter, to give any further suggestions regarding the guidelines and listed the matter for July 16. The submissions were made by the MCI in an affidavit filed in pursuance to the court's August 1, 2018 order by which the council was directed to examine the guidelines of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) and to frame appropriate guidelines on the issues of sexual boundaries and improprieties.
The court was hearing a matter which was initiated by it after taking cognisance of a 2017 media report on an Indian-origin doctor's sexual misconduct in the US. The MCI, in its affidavit filed through advocate T Singhdev, said the matter was considered by the ethics committee which decided to adopt the guidelines of IPS after due discussion and deliberations.
It said the ethics committee's recommendations were placed before the Board of Governors in supersession of the MCI which also approved the decision to adopt these guidelines. IPS along with the Bangalore Declaration Group - a team of doctors across various medical specialities in India - have come up with a set of guidelines for doctors on sexual boundaries, for the first time, to train them on what is ethically right and wrong.
It says that the oath does specify that doctors must not enter into unhealthy relationships with patients, particularly in the sexual context. The guidelines state that it is the ethical duty of all doctors to ensure effective care for their patients and this would mean that their own conduct should in no way harm their patient.
"Sexual relationships between doctors and patients invariably harm both the patient and the doctor. Trust, which is central to an effective doctor-patient relationship, is inevitably damaged. In view of the power gradient that invariably exists in the doctor-patient relationship, the onus is on the doctor to ensure he or she does not enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient," it said. It also mentions that while the laws relations to sexual abuse in India generally pertain to women, these guidelines aim to be gender neutral and serve as a guide to a code of conduct on doctors of any gender and to protect the patients of all genders too.
"Doctors should ensure that they do not exploit the doctor-patient relationship for personal, social, business or sexual gain," the guidelines state. An Indian-origin doctor was barred from practising by a US court in 2011 and was now treating patients in the National Capital Region (NCR).
As per the media report earlier referred to by the court, the medical practitioner had pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual battery for unwarranted medical examination on women patients. As per the report referred to by the court, the doctor was charged in Georgia in the US with aggravated sexual battery, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.
Following his indictment by a superior court in Georgia in 2010, a plea bargain was negotiated. He had pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual battery and was asked to surrender all US medical licences, leave the country and "not practice medicine in any form within the United States or any other country," the court referred in its order. As per the report, the doctor was running a clinic each in Delhi and Gurgaon.
(With inputs from agencies.)