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31 Aug 2012

Doctors cannot advertise anything that would mislead a person into going for a treatment based merely on the doctor’s claim that he/she would be cured completely.

Such advertisements lead to unethical practice and doctors should be barred from doing so, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission said recently.

The commission was hearing a case where a doctor from Dehradun had advertised that his laser surgery could correct visual acuity and therefore one could get rid of spectacles.

The complainant, a mechanical engineer who wanted to join the Indian Air Force, underwent the laser surgery and his vision deteriorated.

Upholding a fine of Rs1 lakh on the doctor, the commission, presided by justice RC Jain and member Anupam Dasgupta, found the doctor and the hospital where the surgery was done "guilty of adopting unfair trade practice within the meaning of section 2 (1) (r ) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, as well as violating the Code of Ethics Regulations ( Regulation no.6.1) by publishing misleading advertisement".

Quoting the Medical Council of India’s regulation that debars any doctor from publishing any advertising that would invite attention to him or to his professional position, skill, qualification, achievements, attainments, specialities, appointments, associations, affiliations or honours, the commission said, "Clearly the doctor violated the above mentioned regulation which by itself was unethical conduct and hence constitute deficiency in service."

"The advertisement clearly held out a kind of guarantee ‘to get rid of spectacles and contact lenses’ and ‘to see the world at large without spectacles’. Such a proclamation was sufficient to allure unwary intended patients that their vision would be corrected to 6 /6 situation without the use of the spectacles and contact lenses."

The commission also warned the doctor to forthwith withdraw any such advertisement in electronic, print or any other media and desist from doing so in future.

Welcoming the decision, Dr DR Rai, honourary secretary general of the Indian Medical Association, said, "I am very happy. I congratulate the consumer court...though I doubt that such advertisements will stop. We have been working for this for years, but the advertisements don’t stop because it involves revenue for the newspapers."

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