Doctors for Ethical Practices

Efforts of committed medical practitioners to promote ethics in the profession

In the early 1990s, a group of doctors, dismayed at the regulatory sloth of the Indian Medical Council, which had led to a rampant increase in unethical medical practices, decided it was time for some action. Eight doctors, known for their ethical practices and concern for the public health system, established the Forum for Medical Ethics (FME) in 1992. 
They contested the Maharashtra Medical Council elections and, as expected, lost because of massive rigging of the elections by those supported by money-power and politics. But, as Dr Sunil Pandya, a founder of FME, says: “We were able to generate a public debate on the need for ethics in the elections to medical councils and their role and responsibility through the media”. The FME documented the electoral malpractices in detail and filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Bombay High Court. It won the case; the elections were pronounced invalid due to rigging. 
The court battle also led to greater bonding and professional camaraderie, which eventually resulted in the formal registration of the Forum for Medical Ethics Society (FMES) with the charity commissioner (Mumbai) as a voluntary, non-profit organisation. 
FMES started out by holding monthly meetings to discuss issues in medical ethics and publishing a quarterly newsletter called Medical Ethics. The Society had no funds and worked only with volunteers, who also happened to be reputed medical practitioners passionate about upholding the Hippocratic Oath. 
Medical Ethics began as an eight-page quarterly newsletter in August 1993, but soon doubled and quadrupled the pages as it gained wider support from the profession and the public. In January 1996, it was renamed Issues in Medical Ethics and after 2004 is known as the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. It is now an internationally refereed journal and is also available online. Every submission to the Journal is scrutinised by the editorial staff and then by referees within India or abroad. The Journal’s editorial board comprises well-known international experts from countries as varied in health services as the US, UK, South Africa, China and Belgium, etc. It is being indexed by PubMed.
Initially, the Society’s work, mainly the publication of the Journal, was done through volunteering and funds raised from individual donors. Dr Sanjay Nagral, the current publisher of the Journal, says: “Someone donated the paper and someone paid for the printing. All of us worked for free. Even the ‘offices’ of Journal were located in the home of one of the volunteers!” But once the activities expanded, Dr Amar Jesani, another founder member of the Society, suggested holding a biennial ‘National Bioethics Conference’, the surpluses of which were ploughed into funding the Journal. The conferences are held at a teaching institution to keep overheads low. 
As with all activities that espouse professional ethics, raising funds for FME’s activities, especially the Journal, is a challenge. “Since we do not accept advertisements from pharma companies as a matter of principle, we have to depend on philanthropists to support the cause. Also, now that we have put the Journal online and traffic on the website is huge, maintaining the website requires professional staff as well as funds,” says Dr Nagral. 
The Journal is widely read—not just by doctors but by activists, development professionals and policy-makers. Not surprisingly, that segment of the readership is much larger than that of medical professionals!
Donations to FMES are eligible for tax benefits under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act. You can donate online; the details are given on the Forum’s website. 
Forum for Medical Ethics Society
0-18, Bhavna, Veer Savarkar Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai - 400 025 INDIA 
Telephone: 07506265856
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    Bapoo Malcolm

    5 years ago

    While it is a lame excuse, an effect-and-cause story, many doctors justify excessive monetary benefits as pay-back for expensive studies.

    The cost of medical education may be high but budding doctors go in with their eyes open. Then ask how many would prefer a doctor as a match for one's child and WHY? It's the money, honey. And it's our society that feeds the unethical standards.

    We live in a country where the idiom is "Competitive Corruption".

    Bhavesh, are you listening?

    Bapoo M. Malcolm

    Narendra Doshi

    5 years ago


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  • A Home for Women & Children
    Swadhar works for the development of women and children and has outlived its founder, Meenakshi Apte
    Swadhar is the brain child of two of Maharashtra’s best-known activists -- Meenakshi Apte and Mrinal Gore. On the advice of super cop Julio Ribeiro, the two formidable women began a series of women-oriented activities at Goregaon (a Mumbai suburb) in 1980. In 1983, they set up a counselling centre that continues to operate even today.
    After her retirement from the Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Meenakshi Apte moved to Pune. In 1995, she started Swadhar as a branch of the Mumbai NGO, with the help of Sulabha Joshi and Suchitra Date. Swadhar (Pune) decided to broaden its work to include children. The NGO was renamed Swadhar IDWC (Institute for Development of Women and Children) to reflect this new role. 
    Swadhar’s vision is to help and empower women in distress and achieve healthy development of underprivileged children through education, guidance, training and counselling, to ensure a reasonable quality of life. It started by counselling women going through a bad marriage or divorce; this was later expanded to cover all family disputes involving women. It conducts awareness programmes on domestic violence, women’s rights, the need to maintain important documents, health and hygiene, etc, once every month. It has other activities as well. 
    Girls’ Education Support Programme: Many girls from low-income families are forced to leave school and are married off at the age of 15.  Swadhar supports the education of young girls so that they are not forced to drop out of school. If they are from outside Pune, Swadhar helps them with boarding and lodging in a hostel. Around 250 students are being supported under this programme, with a large contribution from an IT company. 
    Phulora: This project is being run in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad Corporation areas for underprivileged school dropouts and adolescent girls. They are taught vocational courses and given personality development training, through interactive activity, role-playing and essay writing. Swadhar’s effort has reduced school dropout rates and early marriages among girls. Phulora’s success has led to Swadhar getting requests from women to conduct the programme in other towns and villages. So far, Phulora has benefited 107 girls in Pune and over 1,219 in the Pimpri-Chinchwad belt.
    Mohor is a 24-hour shelter home and educational centre for children of sex workers until they are four years old, after which they are shifted to hostels during the academic year and to Swadhar shelter during their holidays. Around 50 children are provided nutritious food and have their physical needs taken care of, but Swadhar is finding it difficult to raise resources for this effort. 
    Ray of Hope is a programme designed for children with HIV/AIDs. Around 130 children under the age of 18 years have benefited from this endeavour. These children are provided a protein-rich diet and supplements, while discouraging them from starting ART (anti-retroviral treatment) due to its adverse side-effects. Most children under this programme are either orphans or have a single surviving parent. Children are monitored closely and are provided nutritious food in the hope that their immune system could be strengthened in order to avoid the dreadful disease. 
    In March 2014, Meenakshi Apte passed away. However, the hard work since 1995 and the support of several corporate houses, foundations as well as grants have created an institution capable of surviving its founders. This excellent work needs all the support it can get in the form of volunteers for programmes and financial help to grow and sustain operations. Donations to Swadhar are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of Income-Tax Act.
    Swadhar IDWC
    C/o Nivara, 96, Navi Peth, Pune 411030 
    Tel 020-244533452 


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