Indian Medical Association Condemns Police Action Inside Hospitals

"A new low in the civic life of a nation"

New Delhi: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) issued a statement on Sunday condemning police action inside hospitals, calling it “a new low in the civic life of the nation”.

The IMA is a national voluntary organisation of Indian doctors. It’s the same body whose president, Santanu Sen, had written to the editor of the influential medical journal The Lancet, condemning the latter’s denouncement of government action in Kashmir.

The IMA’s current statement is based on reports that police was forcefully entering hospitals to attack people injured during recent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) and a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). IMA has called the reports “disturbing”.

The statement also says that it’s not entirely unexpected, referring to the “impunity” with which doctors and hospital staff are often attacked.

For example, 4,000 doctors in Maharashtra participated in a “collective agitation” to draw attention to their safety, after relatives of patients had assaulted medical professionals in isolated incidents at peripheral institutions.

In June this year, doctors in West Bengal participated in a similar agitation to highlight their lack of security in the face of angry patients and their kin, as well as insufficient funds and support to deal with such incidents.

“However, the difference this time is that it is the establishment which has lost its restraint,” the IMA statement says.

Citing the example of its own stand on attacks on hospitals by the West in Afghanistan, the IMA adds that denial of access to medical care is a no-go.

“No violence is acceptable in a hospital. Hospitals are sacrosanct and are exempted even in a war zone,” the statement says.

In international conflicts and other arenas of organised violence, for example, Article 18 of the fourth Geneva Convention (to which India is party) specifies the following: “Civilian hospitals organised to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.”

The IMA statement continues: “Visuals of a policeman violently opening an ICU door by stomping is a clear indication of the new truth and the new standards”, apparently coming down on the government for allowing police action inside hospitals.

The statement follows the publication of CCTV footage from a Highland Hospital in Mangaluru on the social media, showing policemen barging into the hospital and chasing people with batons in hand.

There have also been reports of teargas shells being found inside the hospital’s ICU ward.