Hair-raising quackery

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5Santosh, 22, a medical student at a college in Chennai, died right after a hair transplant operation. He was least aware of the dangers involved in this surgery and would never have imagined that it might actually take his life.

Before undergoing this surgery, the student was in perfect health except that he was losing hair from his head and was on the verge of going bald. Friends would recall how his semi -baldness would often leave him embarrassed when boys of his age would flaunt their hairstyles.

It was this which compelled him to take recourse to this common surgical procedure in cosmetic surgery.

Santosh was the only son of his parents, who now are in a state of despair. They allege that the doctors at the Advanced Robotic Hair Transplant centre were not surgeons at all. The hospital has been sealed by the police. However, the ‘doctors’ who performed the surgery are missing. The parents of the deceased also allege that the centre was earning lakhs every day and they themselves had paid 73,000 for their son’s hair transplant.

Lately, hair transplants have become a common practice, with even quacks dabbling in it due to the easy money involved, believes Dr. DJS Tulla , Head Of The Department Cosmetic and Aesthetic Surgery at Primus Super Specialty Hospital.

Talking to TEHELKA, he said, “This is a ticking time bomb. Delhi has lots of these centres. Quacks run rampant in this country. Since there is quick money involved, everyone is into hair transplant. Allopathic doctors, Ayurvedic doctors, dentists — name anyone, everyone is into hair transplants. To our utter surprise, people are conducting hair transplant surgeries in shady places, shoddy clinics, and even houses. People go to them as they charge less. So if people themselves want to risk their lives, then what can be done? It is surprising that even educated people fall for this.”

“There are lots of these so-called doctors getting hair transplants performed at their centres without even the basic sterile setup required. They are neither qualified nor trained to do a hair transplant, which is a proper surgical procedure,” he adds.

The number of unqualified medical practitioners running clinics registered with the State Medical Council is soaring. The administration seems to have conveniently neglected this menace. According to the state Medical Council, they lack support from government and police officials to take strong action against these quacks.

As per a 1996 Supreme Court ruling, anyone practising modern medicine without proper training in the discipline is termed a quack or charlatan. Indian Medical council Act 1956 punishes this with up to a year in prison and fine of Rs 1,000. 

According to data available in public domain, there are almost 40,000 quacks operating in the country at present. Tehelka is in possession of a few prescriptions where the doctor’s qualification is mentioned as MA in Political Science and similar disciplines.

On an order delivered on 8 April 2016 by Delhi High Court, AYUSH doctors, who hold degrees like BAMS (Ayurveda), BHMS (Homeopathy) and BUMS (Unani) may face a jail term up to three years and a fine of Rs 20,000.

The High Court had clearly stated that such practitioners cannot practice modern medicine.

The jurisdiction covers all AYUSH practitioners including BUMS, BAMS, BIMS, and BHMS. The medical council had also issued an advertisement reading this order of the Delhi High Court in newspapers.
Referring to this judgment, the Delhi Medical Council has notified that only those people are entitled to practise a modern scientific system of medicine who possess the required medical qualification as per first, second or third schedule to the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and are registered with the Delhi Medical Council.

Under Section 27 of the DMC Act, 1997: “Any person who falsely assumes that he is a medical practitioner as defined in Clause (7) of Section 2 and practices the modern scientific system of medicine, shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which may extend up to three years and fine which may extend up to 20,000 or with both,“ says Dr Anil Bansal, former chairman, Anti-Quackery Cell, Delhi Medical Council.

“In 2013 December Delhi high Court constituted a committee of additional solicitor general of India, Delhi police, health department of Delhi government, various councils including DMC, drug controller etc which after thorough deliberation for five months gave its plan to take action against quacks in Delhi.”

“These recommendations were accepted by the court on 29 May 2014. Main action plan was that a joint raiding team comprising of CDMO of health department of Delhi government as nodal officer along with representatives of all councils, including DMC, local police raid in all the districts of Delhi initially once a month and after some time weekly and will book cases as per Council’s Act and other IPC sections. Regular public awareness by Councils in media will be done. Police proactively will confirm about quacks with the help of local beat officer and councils which are online these days,” he adds.

On conditions of anonymity, a DMC member said, “It is very sad to inform that police has refused to do anything of their own in spite of undertaking in the court.

“Delhi govt health department is doing an eye wash by just making incomplete reports of various complaints they receive and forward it toDMC for action.

“No proper joint raids are conducted anymore. DMC takes action only on the basis of the report of CDMOS of Delhi government. No special effort is being made by DMC as well. Very seldom action is taken on Investigations. These orders of DMC are seeing the dust in police and health department. Very rarely action taken report is sent.

“No public awareness is being done by either DMC or DHS in the last one year with the installation of new Govt and new DMC except one or two ads by DMC while as per the court order it should have been done on monthly basis.”

However, during our course of the investigation, we found out that DMC is too hand in gloves with police when it comes to action being taken them against the quacks.

There are an ample number of cases where the patients have suffered losses and at times died because of these quacks operating in the Delhi capital region.

There are no figures depicting the percentage of unqualified doctors in the country nevertheless regional surveys indicates that there is 70 percent of health care services are provided by doctors who have no formal medical training.

We also found out that DMC has not bothered to update any data of action taken by them against quacks from 2015 onwards.

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