In order to ensure that children with disabilities are not made to go through medical and surgical interventions where they are not required, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has decided to abide by instructions from the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) and has said that doctors who are not trained in rehabilitation should limit their treatment of children with disabilities only to their medical illness or disease.
The MCI’s order, issued by its secretary, has been issued in accordance with the CCPD directing the body to provide appropriate instructions in 2008.
The CCPD had stated that although most of doctors are not trained for rehabilitating persons with disabilities, they often try to treat them through medical and surgical interventions, even when none are required. “In the process, [the] most critical period of [the] first six years of life is lost which is [the] most important period to train and rehabilitate the child with disability to utilise the residual capacity of the impaired organs,” the MCI notification observed.
Pointing to the dangers of doctors overstepping their limits, the MCI notification said it gets “too late for such children to respond to the rehabilitation therapies even by most qualified and skilled rehabilitation professionals like physiotherapist, speech therapist, audiologist, prosthetic and orthotic engineer, special educator, etc.”
In light of this, medical practitioners have been requested to only refer cases involving children with disabilities to qualified doctors to ensure that they get appropriate rehabilitation/therapeutic assistance well in time.
The MCI has also warned that it will take action against incompetent and unqualified medical practitioners handling the cases of children with disabilities under the provisions of Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulation, 2002.
It added that in such cases, the court of CCPD can also take action against incompetent doctors under Section 59 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
Earlier this year, in March, The Wire had reported on most states’ lack of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) departments despite the MCI issuing a directive to establish them nearly 20 years ago.
In a petition filed before the CCPD, Satendra Singh, an associate professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences and G.T.B. Hospital in Delhi, had complained that “PMR departments are non-existent or scanty in medical colleges of many states.”
The petition, in which the MCI, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities were also addressed as respondents, highlighted the need for India to harmonise all its relevant domestic laws and policies with international standards in light of it ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
However, whether the MCI’s directions will be implemented remains to be seen. Although the MCI decided to include PMR and radiotherapy as mandatory subjects in the existing MBBS curriculum in 2013, this change is yet to be notified by the health ministry.