Am I a bogus doctor?
I am moved to write this letter to your journal after reading an essay in the Journal of Association of Physicians of India by Dr B M Hegde, who I consider one of the living legends of medicine. (1) I have often discussed the issue of sponsorshop, to which Dr Hegde refers, but rarely have my colleagues listened to me. This is a subject of much interest to Issues in Medical Ethics.
In 1998, I was invited to APICON, to present my life’s research on the scorpion sting, within 20 minutes. A company selling anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic drugs sent me an air ticket and informed me they would be putting me up at a big hotel in Bangalore. The PRO indicated that I should be writing about his product. I immediately returned the ticket and sent a message to the organisers that I would be happy to spend the night at a bus-stand or railway platform, rather than have my stay sponsored. I went to the conference by road. When I reached there, my sponsored colleagues were surprised to see me there.
I notice at these conferences that few attendees go to the academic section; the long queues are reserved for the dinner and cocktails. Sometimes companies organise a single lecture for which they provide a two-day stay for doctors and their families. At Mahad, many pharmaceutical companies arrange CMEs with cocktails and dinner, but have to borrow a projector from me. They pay for the (air) travel and stay of guest speakers and even attendees. I have refused travel and staying allowance even as a guest speaker, something which has kept me away from sponsored programmes; I am no longer invited for these programmes even when all my colleagues are. For example, a conference on non-insulin diabetes (NIDUS 2001) was held at the Hotel Subbean, at Pattaya, Thailand, from August 10 to 12, 2001. This was aimed at the general practitioner, and indeed my colleagues in my city were invited, but I was not.
I am swimming against the stream, and I am being treated as an outcast by my colleagues, as if I am a bogus doctor. Doctors need to think about principles and ethics if they are to maintain the dignity of this noble profession.
H S Bawaskar, Mahad, Raigad, Maharashtra, 402 301.
- Hegde BM. Is academic medicine for sale? JAPI 2001; 49: 831-832.