Lives at risk due to fake certificates, quakes continue to thrive in Delhi

Fake doctors unscrupulously dispense allopathic medicines without professional expertise

Reshma is still awaiting justice for her 11-year-old son Aman who lost his leg after being allegedly treated by a quack last year.

A resident of Rana Pratap Bagh area, little did Reshma know that her son would have to get amputated after a two-inch glass penetrated his leg.

One ‘Dr’ Aftab who first treated the child botched up the case, the family had claimed. However, a year on, the illegal doctor is still practicing medicine in another part of the city, says Reshma.

“In a recent Delhi Medical Council meeting where we thought the case will finally be concluded, the quack did not turn up. The council has called us again next week,” says Reshma, who worked as a housekeeper in a girls’ hostel.

“In this one year, we have written to all possible authorities to help us out. But help has not reached us to get justice. The quack continues to practice,” she adds.

The quack had allegedly bandaged the deep wound and sent the child home – a case of medical negligence given the boy’s condition.

The child is supposed to undergo another operation soon but his parents have not been able to arrange for the funds so far, says Reshma.

Like ‘Dr’ Aftab, there are thousands of quacks thriving in the city who are unscrupulously dispensing allopathic medicines even though they lack the expertise.

They forge medical certificates and despite not holding valid degrees continue to practice in the city.

Only doctors registered with the Delhi Medical Council can practice medicine in the state.

Those who hold degrees in other branches of medicine apart from allopathy cannot dispense allopathic medicines.

Crosspathy or practicing medicine which one is not qualified in is also banned under the law. Like a person who holds a degree in homeopathy cannot practice allopathy.

However, there is little initiative by the authorities to clamp down on these clinics. Intensive raids conducted frequently can help the situation.

“The health department needs to crack down on these illegal clinics pro-actively. Currently, raids are conducted on the basis of only complaints received. So action is initiated against few clinics,” says Dr Anil Bansal, anti-quackery chairperson, Delhi Medical Council (DMC).

Even after closure orders are handed over, quacks open shop in other localities and continue to put lives at risk. The police are also non-cooperative while conducting raids, say members of the inspection team.

“My father died last year after being wrongly given an injection by a quack. Even though I insisted that my father had started behaving oddly right after the injection, the quack refused to hear my plea. My father died the same night after sudden complications,” says Rajesh Kumar, a resident of Madangiri.

Kumar has not got justice either. “The quack ran away from this area. Now he is practicing in Sangam Vihar.”

Harming patients

“Quacks have a tendency to prescribe antibiotics erratically which leads to resistance to such drugs. They give drugs which leads to instant remission of the infection. This harms the patients in the long-term,” says Dr Bansal.

Several quacks produce forged certificates during raids. In several cases, they are only 10th pass-outs and have not even studied Science.

If found guilty, the maximum punishment for quacks is imprisonment till three years or a fine of Rs 20,000 or both depending on the cases.

“But in most cases, they manage to secure a bail. There is a need to change the provision in which the punishment is extended beyond three years. It needs to be made a non-bailable offence,” says Dr K K Aggarwal, Honourary Secretary, Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Though the common belief is that quacks mostly open clinics in the outskirts of the city where there is a lack of health facilities, illegal doctors are also in areas which have private and government hospitals in close proximity.

In recent cases, the health department cracked down on an illegal clinic near AIIMS. The quack claimed to cure illnesses that doctors at the premiere hospital cannot, members of the inspection team had said.

Despite holding no degrees, he has resumed practice at the clinic after being released on bail. “We have written to the police to cooperate with the inspection team. We are still awaiting a response,” says Dr Bansal.

“There have been at least 30 cases in the past five years in which the people forged certificates to get into private hospitals as doctors. Despite holding no degrees, they continue to treat patients at these hospitals,” says Dr Girish Tyagi, Registrar, DMC.

There is a need to set up fast-track courts to deal with quackery cases, he adds. In most cases it takes years for the patients to get justice.

Spurious drugs

Not only are several quacks responsible for giving wrong treatment to the patients but they also store spurious medicines and medicines under unfavourable conditions.

In the recent past, raiding teams have recovered several antibiotics, injections from quacks across the city which were not stored properly.

Spurious drugs are not only ineffective but also damage health.

The Drug Controller needs to be more pro-active in checking spurious drugs in market, said sources in the health department.

Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk which is one of the biggest wholesale medicine markets in the country has also come to be known as being a supplier of spurious drugs, with these medicines entering the market from various states. Despite raids, not much has changed here, according to traders.

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