A group of doctors from Karnataka has shot off a letter to the Chairman of the National Medical Commission (NMC), Dr Suresh Chandra Sharma and the President of Undergraduate Medical Education Board, Dr Aruna V Vanikar expressing concerns about purported changes being brought about in the medical college curriculum including replacing the Hippocratic Oath, which have been doing the rounds in the social media and been reported in mainstream media.
In the letter, they have said that some images and documents titled ‘Highlights of Today’s VC by NMC’, ‘Minutes of NMC discussion with all Medical Colleges of India’, and news reports have stated that the NMC has decided to replace the Hippocratic Oath with ‘what has been termed as’ Charak Shapath’. “Since there has been no clarification or denial of the same by the National Medical Commission, and since some news reports have quoted unnamed members of the NMC, we are constrained to consider these images/documents to be true documents and the reports to be genuine and are therefore writing this to express our dismay and grave concern about these developments, and to request the National Medical Commission to immediately reconsider and rescind any such decisions, if already taken”, they said.
The documents reportedly state, ‘Replacement of Hippocrates Oath with Charak Shapath as Charak belonged to our motherland - Oath taking to be conducted during White Coat Ceremony in local language/vernaculars’ (During white coat ceremony (with parents) the oath will be ‘Maharshi Charak Shapath’ present in NMC website).
The doctors have stated that there is no such ‘Maharshi Charak Shapath’ on NMC website, as of now. “On the contrary, some images titled as ‘Maharshi Charak Shapath’, published in the name of one National Medicos Organisation, are widely circulating in the social media, with statements suggesting that the same has been introduced by the NMC”, they said.
The doctors have put forth two requests to the officials — one, asking NMC to immediately publish the ‘ORIGINAL Charak Shapath on the website of the NMC’ and call for suggestions/ objections. The second request is that the NMC should reconsider and rescind the decision to replace the modern oath.
Citing that the NMC is concerned with imparting modern scientific medicine, the Oath of Medical Ethics, that every practitioner of modern medicine swears by, has evolved with changing times and socio-political systems, ‘from the ancient times of Charaka to Hippocrates to the modern pledge adopted as the Declaration of Geneva, the latest one being adopted by the World Medical Association in 2017’.
The doctors have also said that the ‘Charak Shapath’ mandates ‘growing of beard and hair’, ‘paying for cows and Brahmins’, ‘not treating those who are in opposition to the King or whom the physician or society may despise’, and also ‘not giving any priority or any treatment at all to those who are gravely ill’. “While the ancient Hippocratic oath makes a physician duty bound to his patients, without considering political positions or gender, it restrains from performing abortions. The modern oaths, belonging to the present, with tremendous advances in modern sciences and establishment of liberal democratic social structures, make it very clear that every human shall be treated equally and the physicians must be committed to treat fellow humans to the best of their abilities under any circumstances”, they said.
The doctors further added that the ancient Hippocratic Oath is not in use now but the graduates of modern scientific medicine are taking the modern pledge.
“Replacing the modern oath, by erroneously terming it as Hippocratic Oath, with what is being termed as Maharshi Charak Shapath, which is completely out of sync with modern scientific medicine, modern social practices, and modern socio-political values, is not only unnecessary, but will also be impossible to implement or even lead to ridiculous situations”, they said.
Citing examples, they stated that implementing the original Charak Shapath would automatically disable every woman medical graduate from practising, making it only men’s profession, who in turn would need to grow beard and hair and follow the other norms as was mandated in the ancient oath. “Considering all these, we suggest that the NMC should reconsider and rescind the decision to replace the modern oath”, they said.
The doctors also expressed shock and concerns over other decisions in the minutes, and objected to the decision of compulsory yoga for ten days to be implemented at the national level. Stating that making yoga mandatory for students as well as faculty, and promoting it as a remedy for preventing/treating depression, anxiety, suicides and ragging are completely unscientific, illogical, dangerous, they demanded it to be immediately withdrawn. “Further, modern medical colleges cannot be made to create spectacles of Surya Namaskars etc on International Yoga Day, with medical and nursing students along with faculties performing yoga inside the campuses of medical colleges. No AYUSH trainer can be employed in a modern medical college, under the pretext of teaching yoga or anything else, and that decision also should be withdrawn,” they said.
Saying that the entire list of decisions “purportedly taken by the NMC smacks of efforts mooted in the NEP (National Education Policy) of disrupting and even destroying modern medical education, and also the future of modern medicine in India, imperilling not only the careers of all the future graduates of modern medicine, but also the delivery of healthcare in India”, they sought that all the decisions must be immediately withdrawn.