Complaint against Wockhardt Hospitals' ad upheld by ASCI

ASCI ruled that the Wockhardt ad, which appeared in September in Mumbai Mirror, was misleading and against the MCI code of ethics.


The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), on the 5th of November, ruled on Moneylife Foundation's complaint against an advertisement by Wockhardt Hospitals. ASCI upheld the complaint and advised the advertiser to withdraw or modify the ad if they did not wish to appeal the decision of the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC)


The complaint refers to an advertisement put out by Wockhardt in Mumbai Mirror that said, “the best in healthcare meets the best in Bariatric Surgery.” Other than the completely unverifiable headline, the print ad had other claims that went against various rules and ethical guidelines.


The ad said that a new doctor had joined the hospital, a certain Dr Bhandari. The ad says, “Dr Bhandari is here to treat, educate and operate upin obese and diabetic patients through Bariatric surgery.” As the CCC reported in its findings, the Doctor's registration certificate ended up showing only an MBBS degree. This would mean that either he performs surgeries without an MS (Masters in Surgery) or he does not have one and does not perform surgeries at all!

At the outset, the complaint said that the ad violated the ASCI code of conduct for medical practitioner. Secondly, Moneylife's complaint said that according to Clause 6.1 of the Medical Council of India Code of Ethics Regulations 2002, a doctor cannot solicit patients, and hence would it be correct for hospitals to do so in the name of a doctor? Clause 6.1 states that, “Soliciting of patients directly or indirectly, by a physician, by a group of physicians or by institutions or organisations is unethical.”


Moneylife's complaint stated that claiming yourself to be the “Best in healthcare” or “Best in bariatric surgery” was wrong on the part of the hospital. There would be no way to evaluate such claims and the ad did not offer any substantiation of these claims itself.


The complaint had also pointed out that bariatric surgery is a serious matter and that it had even led to deaths in some cases, most famous being the case of the Maharaja of Mysore, who developed more complications after he underwent a bariatric surgery in 2010. He died on 10 December 2013 due to Septicemia and lung infection that he developed after undergoing Liposuction procedure. Advertising of medicines and healthcare services has been a major issue with the ASCI, where lives are at stake and often the patients' long term health.


The CCC concluded that the claim that Wockhardt was the 'best in healthcare' or that Dr Bhandari was the best in bariatric surgery, could not be verified in any way. The CCC also agreed that the ad was in violation of Clause 6.1 of the Medical Council of India Code of Ethics Regulations 2002.


The CCC order cited Chapter 1.1 of the ASCI guidelines, which states that all claims made in ads must be truthful and should be possible to be substantiated. While the CCC does leave the advertiser the option to appeal or show how their claims in the ad were true, it is unlikely that such a claim can be substantiated.


The CCC order also says that the ad is against Chapter 1.4 of the guidelines too. This clause says that an ad must not distort facts or mislead the consumer. With the fact coming to light about the advertised doctor's qualifications to be advertised as a surgeon, this becomes and even more serious case.



Professor Dr BM Hegde

3 years ago

Thank you Sucheta.

Professor Dr BM Hegde

3 years ago

These days direct and indirect advertisements by doctors and corporate hospitals have become the norm rather than exception. Why single out one hospital?

In fact, at one stage the Royal College of Surgeons of England had put a moratorium on Bariatric surgery. I am sure this surgery will die a natural death eventually after killing many, many more patients like Mysore Maharaja.

This operation is against nature's laws. That apart the gut is the vital part of the human immune system. If you alter its physiology you are going to get into serious short term and long term consequences. Immune depression with fatal infections is the most dangerous.

If one recapitulates medical history in the 1950s and 60s Gastro-jejunostomy and partial gastrectomy were the till- movers for surgeons and hospitals. They led to protean long term problems and now one does not hear about them. I am sure Bariatric surgery will find its place in the dust bin. Sooner that happens the better for patients.

As you get out of the aircraft in Ahamadabad at the entrance to the baggage area there is a huge board claiming that Bariatric surgery is best in one hospital there. This has been there for months without anyone noticing that it is unethical. Some eye hospitals are daily advertising in the electronic media that they are there for any of your eye problems. (Hum Hai Na)

Corporate hospitals defy all ethical norms, but who bothers? If the MCI had the guts to close down all such hospitals there will be no corporate hospitals left in India. Then politicians will say that it is bad for the country. In fact, it will be the happiest day for the nation. Hospitals and doctors DO NOT keep society healthy anyway!

A Citizen


Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Professor Dr BM Hegde 3 years ago

Dear Prof Hegde

Thank you for writing and commenting on this piece. In fact, I personally filed the complaint about Wockhardt.
I did it because I saw it and was outraged.

Had I travelled to Ahmedabad and seen the advertisement, I would have clicked a photograph on my mobile phone and sent a complaint to ASCI about this too.

Things will change when citizens act to stop wrong doing and misinformation. I wish readers in Ahmedabad are inspired to file a complaint .

Today, filing a complaint with ASCI is extremely easy and can be done online. The code is available online and it also engages with people through Facebook. A specific complaint with proof works wonders -- it eliminates the feeling that one hospital is singled out.

When more of us get alert and active even the MCI will have to pay heed.


Simple Indian

3 years ago

And besides this advt, there are advts on certain FM Radio stations these days by "doctors" of the "South Mumbai" Wockhardt Hospital stating how they honour their Hippocratic Oath. What hypocrisy !

Govt to launch modified DBT for LPG in 54 districts from 15th November

Modi government is launching the direct benefits transfer for LPG on test basis in 54 districts with some modification. This includes giving subsidy directly in consumer’s bank account even if they do not have Aadhaar number


The Narendra Modi government is re-launching its modified direct benefits transfer for LPG (MDBTL) scheme in pilot basis in 54 districts across the country. The main feature of this modified scheme is LPG consumers will be able to get subsidy directly in their bank accounts from 15th November even if they do not have Aadhaar numbers.


The previous DBTL scheme launched by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government failed due to its linkage with Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts. Most people did not have either Aadhaar number or a bank account. Now with a push for opening bank accounts, the MDBTL has been linked to both, Aadhaar numbers and bank accounts.


Dharmendra Pradhan, the minister of state for Petroleum and Natural Gas, on Thursday reviewed the preparations for the launch of the MDBTL scheme in 54 districts.


As of now, the MDBTL is being launched in 54 districts to test how it goes, and it is expected to be launched countrywide by 1st January.


The officials of the oil marketing companies, nationalised banks (who have been pushing on the bank accounts front) and district authorities took part in today's call with the Minister. This is Pradhan's second such conference in the last couple of weeks. The limited rollout is slated for 15th November and the final rollout will come with the New Year.


Last month, finance minister Arun Jaitley had said, “Those who are still left outside the scheme, those who are neither have an Aadhaar identity or a bank account...the cylinder system will be still available for them for some time.”


All LPG consumers, who had already joined the scheme solely based on Aadhaar number, will start getting subsidy in their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts after scheme is launched.


LPG consumers will get a grace period of three months during which consumers who have joined the scheme will get subsidy in bank accounts and others will continue to get cylinders at subsidised price.


Market cap of BSE listed companies nears Rs100 lakh crore mark

BSE’s 30-share benchmark Sensex has gained 6,745 points, or 31.86%, so far this year taking the market capitalisation or m-cap of listed companies to Rs97.13 lakh crore


As the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex is witnessing a dream-rally, the total market valuation of Exchange-listed companies has inched closer to the Rs100 lakh crore mark.


At present, the total market capitalisation (m-cap) of BSE-listed companies stands at Rs97.13 lakh crore, which is just Rs2.86 lakh crore short of the Rs100 lakh crore milestone.


In terms of the US dollar, the total market valuation of BSE-listed companies has surged to $1.58 trillion at the current rupee rate of 61.41 against the Greenback.


India first entered the trillion-dollar club in June 2007, but moved out in September 2008 after a global meltdown.


It again got back into the elite league in May 2009 and largely remained there except for some brief time, including once in 2012. In August 2013, it had again slipped out of the list.


The Sensex has gained 6,745.2 points, or 31.86%, so far this year. The index had hit its all-time high of 28,010.39 on Wednesday.


Experts said expectations of more reforms by the Narendra Modi-led government and a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has helped markets scale new heights.


The Sensex blue-chips whose market valuation is more than Rs1 lakh crore include Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), ONGC, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), ITC, Infosys, HDFC Bank, Coal India, State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank, Sun Pharma, HDFC, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), L&T, Bharti Airtel, Tata Motors, Wipro, NTPC, HCL Tech and Axis Bank.


Outsourcing giant TCS is the most valued Indian company with a market cap of around Rs5.1 lakh crore.


Marketmen said Indian markets are also making merry, helped by smart foreign fund inflows.


Since the beginning of this year, overseas investors have infused a net amount of Rs82,266 crore ($13.7 billion) into the equities, while they invested a net of Rs1.36 lakh crore into the debt market ($22.5 billion) taking the total to Rs2.18 lakh crore ($36 billion).


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