Gifts to doctors, scientific information and the credibility gap in the Medical Council of India
Gifts to doctors influence their prescribing patterns. Research has shown, quite unequivocally, that even a small gift, like a pen, can have an influence. The evidence on this is catalogued in detail on the website www.nofreelunch.org. The move of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to amend the code of ethics for doctors and incorporate a specific ban on gifts must, therefore, be welcomed. It must be noted that the rule in India is far more stringent than that in other countries such as the United States. The new rule in India bans all gifts above Rs 1,000 in value. The recommended minimum punishment for accepting a gift up to a value of Rs 5,000 is censure, and above this value, suspension from the medical register for various periods is prescribed. Susan L Coyle, writing for the Ethics and Human Rights Committee of The American College of Physicians – American Society of Internal Medicine, considers as acceptable low cost gifts for office use like pens and calendars, low cost gifts of educational or patient care nature (like textbooks) and modest refreshment.
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