A Medical Practitioner is a professional who practices medicine through the study, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of any disease or injury or other impairments. As per Indian law, a registered medical practitioner is a person whose name is found in the State Medical Register of any State, and who possesses the required medical qualifications.
However, a Physician is a Doctor with qualification of MBBS, or MBBS with post graduate degree/ diploma, or with equivalent qualification in any medical discipline. Only a doctor having a qualification recognized by the Medical Council of India and registered with the Medical Council of India/State Medical Council(s) can practice the modern system of Medicine or Surgery.
Doctors are registered medical practitioners under the law if they:
- Hold recognized medical qualifications granted by Universities or Medical Institutions listed in the Indian Medical Council Act. A list of recognized universities can be found here.
- Hold recognized medical qualifications granted by certain other Medical Institutions, also listed in the Act. A list of these institutions can be found here.
- Enrolled with the State Medical Register
or the Indian Medical Register, and have received a registration number.
If the medical degree is from a foreign university degree, an Indian citizen possessing primary medical qualifications awarded by a foreign medical institution must clear a screening test, in order to be registered with either the Medical Council of India or State Medical Council. Further, you can find a list of recognized foreign universities here.
A doctor should uphold the dignity and honor of their profession, and their prime objective should be to render service to humanity. Further, doctors should be upright, modest, sober, patient, prompt and conduct themselves with propriety in their profession. Legal regulations provide a comprehensive list of a doctor’s general duties, which are:
Maintaining a good practice
- Take care of each patient and provide proper service and devotion.
- Try continuously to improve medical knowledge and skills. They should also use this knowledge to benefit both patients and other colleagues.
- Practice methods of healing founded on a scientific basis. A doctor should not associate professionally with anyone who violates this principle.
Maintaining medical records of patients
- Maintaining medical records:
- Doctors should maintain medical records of patients for a period of 3 years from the commencement of treatment.
- Upon a request by the patient, or authorised attendant, or legal authorities, such medical records shall be produced within 72 hours.
- A medical practitioner has to maintain a register of all the medical certificates issued by them. The identification marks of the patient, along with the signature or thumb impression of the patient shall be collected. The practitioner has to keep a copy of the same.
- Efforts have to be made to digitalize the records.
General Duties of a Doctor
A doctor has some general duties apart from the ones give above including:
- Displaying registration numbers. Upon registration, the State Medical Council gives the doctor a registration number. This should be displayed in all the prescriptions, certificates, money receipts given to the patients.
- Use of generic names of drugs. The Generic Name of a drug refers to its chemical name, or the chemical makeup of the drug, rather than the assigned brand name.
- Highest quality assurance in patient care. Further doctors should:
- Aid in safeguarding the profession against the admission of people who don’t have the appropriate education or don’t have the proper moral character.
- Not employ anyone for a professional practice who is neither registered or enlisted under any of the medical laws. For example, if a doctor is hiring a nurse, it should be someone who is a registered nurse, qualified to practice medicine.
- Exposing unethical conduct of other members of the profession.
- Doctors should announce their fees before rendering service. For instance, personal financial interests of a doctor should not conflict with the patient’s medical interests.
- Observing the laws of the country and not helping others in evading the same.
Duties towards patients
Although doctors are not bound to treat every patient that comes up to them, they should always be ready to respond to calls from the sick and injured. A doctor can advise the patient to go to another doctor, but must treat patients in times of emergencies. No doctor should arbitrarily refuse to treat their patient.
A doctor should be patient, delicate, and must honor the privacy of the patient. While explaining the condition of a patient, the doctor should neither exaggerate nor minimize the gravity of the patient’s condition.
The patient must not be neglected. Once the doctor has undertaken a case, they should not neglect the patient or withdraw from the case without giving adequate notice to the patient and the patient’s family. Further, doctors should not deliberately commit acts of negligence that may deprive a patient from necessary medical care.
If your doctor fails in any or all of these duties, you can complain against them in the appropriate forum.
As per the law, violation of any of the doctor’s duties will qualify as ‘misconduct’ and can result in disciplinary action being taken against a doctor. Further, some other acts also qualify as ‘misconduct’ and can be complained against, like:
Improper or fraudulent activities
- Committing adultery or improper conduct with a patient, or maintaining an improper association with a patient by abusing one’s professional position.
- Conviction by a court for offences involving moral turpitude*/criminal acts.
- Undertaking sex determination with the purpose of aborting a female foetus.
- Signing or giving any certificate, report, or similar document which is untrue, misleading, or improper.
- Performing or enabling unqualified persons to perform an abortion or any illegal operation for which there is no medical, surgical or psychological reason.
Confidentiality of patient information
- Contributing to press articles and giving interviews regarding diseases and treatments which may have the effect of advertising or soliciting practices. However, medical practitioners are free to write to the press under their own name on matters of public health and hygienic living. They can also deliver public lectures and talks under their own name, and announce the same in the press.
- Disclosing the secrets of a patient that have been learnt in the exercise of their profession. However, disclosure is allowed:
- in a court of law under orders of the presiding judicial officer;
- in circumstances where there is a serious and identified risk to a specific person and /or community; and
- in case of notifiable diseases.
- Publishing photographs or case reports of patients without their permission. For instance, a doctor cannot publish the patients identity in any medical or other journal in a manner. However, if the identity is not disclosed, the consent is not needed.
Refusing patient treatments
- Refusing only on religious grounds to give assistance in or conduct of sterility*, birth control, circumcision and medical termination of pregnancy when there is medical reason to do so. However, practitioners may refuse to do so if they believe that they are incompetent for the same.
Conducting operations or treatments
- Conducting operations without obtaining written consent from the husband or wife, parent or guardian in the case of a minor, or the patients themselves. Additionally, consent of both husband and wife is required in operations that result in sterility.
- Conducting in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination without the informed consent of the female patient, her spouse and the donor. However, the female patient should give written consent. Providing sufficient information about purpose, methods, risks, inconveniences, disappointments of the procedure and possible risks and hazards is also a duty of a doctor.
Further, this is not a complete and exhaustive list of all kinds of professional misconduct. Circumstances that are not mentioned above may also qualify as professional misconduct and the responsible medical council can take action on the same.
You can file any complaint with regard to professional misconduct to the State Medical Council or Medical Council of India for disciplinary action. The list of all the State Medical Councils in India can be found here.
Procedure to complain
If the State Medical Council has not decided upon a complaint for over six months, the complainant can approach the Medical Council of India (MCI). Additionally, the MCI has the power to withdraw the case from the State Council and transfer it to themselves.
If a person is not satisfied by the decision of a State Medical Council, they may go to the MCI to challenge the decision within 60 days from receiving the order by the Council. However, if 60 days have passed, then the MCI may or may not accept the complaint of the aggrieved person.
Once a complaint is received, the relevant Medical Council will hear the practitioner. Further, if the person is found guilty, the punishment will be determined by the Council. For instance, it can direct the name of the practitioner to be removed from the corresponding register altogether, or for a specified time period. This means that the practitioner will not be able to practice for that period.