Fearing a severe shortage of radiologists and gynaecologists, the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has written to the State government demanding ‘graded punishment’ in the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) cases, instead of the ‘same for all’ rule.
In the letter sent last week, MMC has said that if the drive against female feoticide continues in the way it is being conducted at present, a majority of doctors will be making the rounds of courtrooms for what could be minor infractions.
|PMC officials seal a sonography machine during a raid to check on illegal sex determination tests at Ranade Hospital last year
“There is a vast difference between a doctor actually caught performing the illegal sex determination test, and a doctor who is found keeping his records incomplete or not putting up the information board prominently in his clinic. The punishment for all the errors cannot be sealing of the sonography machines,” said Dr S Utture of the MMC.
“Almost every second doctor is running around to get the machines unsealed by the authorities. The hazards of this will only reflect on patients in need, as they will not get a doctor when needed,” said Utture, adding that the doctor crunch is already a problem in the state. “This will only make it worse,” he added.
|A seized Acuson Cypress Colour Doppler machine used in cardiac
cases at Ruby Hall
This sentiment finds a strong echo in the city’s medical community. There are 427 sonography centres in the city, and in its drives conducted between June 2011 and June 2012 to check for illegal testing, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) carries has either seized or sealed 12 sonography centres.
Dr Sanjay Gupte, former president, Federation of Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and member, National Supervisory Committee on the PCPNDT Act and MMC, supported the move. He said, “There is no law in the world that imprisons someone for not filling out a form.
The government machinery should detect and expose bogus sonography centres which run without any permissions. There is no point in hounding a professional who follows the norms.”
He added, “There is no dearth of radiologists in the city because such practices are rare here. The only prominent case was in August last year, when PMC raided Ranade Hospital in Narayan Peth and filed a case against Dr Makarand Ranade and Dr Nina Mathrani under the PCPNDT Act, 1994.”
Kiran Moghe of the Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana said the move is a misguided one, and a ploy to misguide public opinion. “According to medical professionals, a minor mistake could be that the ‘F’ form has not been filled.
This form has critical information and is a tool while deciding whether illegal sex determination has been done or not. If it is not filled, how can you decide what the sonography was conducted for?”
Moghe said the medical fraternity should instead expose those involved in such practices. “I have not seen a single letter condemning them from any professional body. I insist that the law, that was framed in 1994, be followed properly.
If a change in the law is needed, the issue should be brought up in the Legislative Assembly or the Parliament. The law is fairly tilted towards doctors, but now that the heat is on them, they have to started complaining,” she said.
Since the ‘Save the Girl Child’ campaign was launched by the State in June last year, authorities have been adamant on treating any kind of PCPNDT violation, be it minor or major, with equal severity. While the government believes the drive will correct the skewed sex ratio, doctors feel the same will soon reflect in the ratio of private doctors with sonography facilities to public.
Doctors say that a majority of sonography machines are sealed for minor errors like not putting up information boards in the local language, not maintaining registers, not having an original copy of the clinic’s registration. Instead, authorities can work out a process of a fine or some other punishment.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) has written to the Central government about the same issue as the PCPNDT is a Central Act. The Act specifies that the appropriate authority should seize the ultrasound machines even for small errors and then submit the case in the court — a similar process for serious PCPNDT offences as well.
► There’s no law in the world that imprisons someone for not filling out a form. Don’t target professionals
- Dr Sanjay Gupte, Member, MMC
► F form has critical info and is a tool while deciding if illegal sex determination has been done or not
- Kiran Moghe, Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana