Oped

Operation quack

  • Investigation should be completed soon and the public have to be assured that the medical sector is clean
- Subhas Lamichhane

Jul 17, 2016-

The identification and arrest of 36 doctors possessing forged academic certificates, mostly of school and intermediate level, and using them to pursue their medical degree have come as a shock to many. Everyone was dismayed by the fact that people with fraudulent certificates thrive in the medical sector that has profound effects on the life and death of a person. As a result, nakkali daktar became a household phrase overnight.

This is indeed a reminder of the dishonest practices prevailing in our society. Not long ago, a professor accused of plagiarism was appointed as the vice chancellor of Tribhuvan University. And despite protests, he continues to occupy the coveted position. Doctors too are products of the same society, and one cannot expect them to be very different from the rest.

Felony or misdemeanour

The majority of the arrested doctors are found to have fake school leaving exam certificates or higher secondary level certificates. However, the surprising thing is that they have been successful in completing their MBBS or MD courses from recognised universities. On the one hand, it raises some serious questions about how they were able to get through the tough courses; on the other hand, it gives us reason to assume that they have the requisite clinical knowledge and surgical techniques to practice medicine. In fact, some of them have been practicing medicine for years and have established themselves as professionals in reputed hospitals. Contrary to the general belief, they are not even ‘quacks’ in the literal sense. But we must admit that no matter how good a clinician they may be, the moral bankruptcy demonstrated by those fake credentials makes them unfit to practice as doctors, for whom this society has the highest regards. After all, doctors are more than technical beings; they have their own set of guiding principles and moral values which they should strictly adhere to.

Worse are those who possessed fake MBBS and MD certificates, the ones practicing without licensing certificates or those who passed the licensing examination with the help of fake examinees. Such doctors pose a great threat to the public health and this amounts to a felony without a doubt.

Parents are often seen encouraging or sometimes even forcing their kids to become doctors without taking their capabilities and interests into account. Because of the supposedly rich and easy life coupled with glamour and social prestige, the profession is hard to resist. So people do get tempted and resort to foul means in order to fulfil their goal of becoming a doctor. So the Indian state of Bihar, just across the border, emerges as their favourite destination to buy all the phony documents.

One can present many such reasons behind this crime. But there should be no excuse; a crime is a crime and it should be condemned no matter what. If such misdeeds go unpunished, it will only encourage more people to follow suit and the medical field will get further polluted. As such, this is the time to set a precedent by punishing the culprits and pushing for similar reforms in other sectors.

Stained white coat

It is not the first time when questions have been raised about the country’s medical profession. Only last December, two fake examinees were found appearing in the Nepal Medical Council’s (NMC) licensing examination on behalf of others who had repeatedly failed to get through. It was in fact this incident that pushed the officials to dig deeper. A big question had arisen—why are doctors failing to clear the medical licensing examination despite repeated attempts? Officials suspected something was wrong and that was how the ‘operation quack’ started. Moreover, the exam is widely believed to be too simple by every standard. Many have even advocated a review of it as it only tests theoretical knowledge and not the skills required of a doctor.

This operation should go beyond punishing the guilty. It should help establish a mechanism by which frauds will not be able to enter this noble profession again. Why did the concerned university not bother to verify the certificates before admitting them to such a sensitive course?

Was it negligence or a deliberate act? Why was the NMC, formed with the sole objective to regulate medical education and profession, in deep slumber for so many years? And, how did the counterfeiters manage to pass the MBBS and MD exams or the licensing exams?

The credibility of the country’s medical sector is at stake. People have begun to doubt their doctors. This also does not bode well for all the honest doctors out there who have worked really hard to get where they are. Therefore, the investigation should be completed as soon as possible and the public should be assured once and for all that the medical sector is clean. From now on, each and every certificate needs to be verified before allowing people to pursue further education, especially in sensitive fields like medicine. Last but not least, the humble but spirited effort of Dr Govinda KC to bring about much-needed reform in medical education is gaining recognition, and we as citizens need to contribute from our side by supporting him.

Lamichhane is a medical officer working in Achham District Hospital

 

 

 

Published: 17-07-2016 08:26

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