Docs agree it's unethical of them to refer patients to labs for a cut

Docs agree it's unethical of them to refer patients to labs for a cut

The practice of doctors referring patients to diagnostic centres for a commission is unethical and  can be legally challenged, medical practitioners said a day after income-tax raids unearthed a racket in the city.  

The Income Tax Department raided at least seven laboratories  from Thursday  to Saturday.  Reports suggested the amount of referral fee in  a single laboratory exceeded Rs 200 crore.  

Doctors said the practice of referring  patients to laboratories for various tests exists across the country but agreed that taking a commission breaches medical ethics.  

"The primary goal of a doctor should be  treating patients. Anything that is not in the interests of patients should not be encouraged," said Dr Vishal Rao, head and neck surgeon, HCG Cancer Centre.  He added that referring a patient to a lab should be only to provide the best  possible treatment.

"Making money by taking commission from laboratories has been in existence for long. Corporate hospitals don't do this because they have their own diagnostic centres.

"It's nursing homes and smaller clinics that carry out this practice," a doctor at a well-known speciality centre said on the condition of anonymity.

No guidelines

The Medical Council of India does not have specific guidelines on the  commissions accepted by doctors  through other means. It is, however, clear about  medical ethics. A medical practitioner shall give priority to the interests of patients, not his/her personal and financial considerations, the council states.    

"There should be some sort of self-regulation when it comes to matters like this. Besides medical ethics, legal issues are also involved in this," said Dr Narendranath, executive member of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA).  

Ramesh, a software engineer, said he trusted  his doctor. "It's surprising to learn  about the income tax raids.  I don't expect my doctor to  take a commission out of a test conducted on me," he added.

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