The Indian Medical Association and doctors have questioned the Madras High Court’s judgment upholding a Tamil Nadu government order that allows practitioners of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy to practise and prescribe modern medicine if they’re institutionally trained in the particular subject. The judgment came on July 22, where Justice RMT Teekaa Raman quashed criminal proceedings against a Homeopathy doctor who was found practising modern medicine in Salem district of Tamil Nadu. Doctors say that ‘cross-pathy’ — where homeopathic and ayurvedic drugs are prescribed along with modern medicines — is problematic and can cause complications for patients.
While passing the order, the Madras High Court pointed out that a circular dating back to October 15, 2010 issued by the Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare department has said, "Institutionally qualified Practitioners of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani, who are registered in the Tamil Nadu Board of Indian Medicine, Chennai, are eligible to practise in the respective system with allopathy based on the training and teaching they had in the Course. But they cannot exclusively do the practice in allopathy Medicine.” ‘Allopathy’ is a term used by AYUSH practitioners for modern medicine.
The petition was filed by R Senthilkumar, a registered Homeopathy practitioner. The petitioner was running a clinic at Panamarathupatti in Salem district. The Block Medical Officer (BMO) of Salem district who conducted the raid found that this Homeopathy doctor was prescribing modern medicine to patients. Based on the complaint registered by the BMO, police had registered an FIR on the same day, against Senthilkumar under Section 15(3) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (punishment for persons acting as medical practitioners except those enrolled on a State Medical Register) and under Section 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
"We vehemently oppose this court order,” said Dr Palanisamy, the president of the Indian Medical Association Tamil Nadu State Branch (IMA TNSB). “Even right after the GO was issued by the health secretary back in 2010, IMA TNSB got a stay order on this issue. But the recent order from the Madras High Court makes us worried about the common public who will be the most affected persons in this case. In medical institutions, we study pharmacology to learn about drugs, reactions, and their effects. But this is not what AYUSH students study in their pharmacology chapters. They study Siddha and Ayurvedha. It would cause severe complications to the people if this kind of cross-pathy is practised,” he added.
"In the last three years, the Union government has been trying to implement cross-pathy which has been strongly objected to. Are all the politicians and bureaucrats willing to get the treatment from such practitioners? They go to Apollo, Omandurar, and Rajiv Gandhi hospitals, right? What is there for you and I, should be there for every citizen of the country,” Dr Ravishankar, former president of the IMA TNSB told TNM.
"The rule by the Madras High Court was based on the GO issued by former health secretary Subburaj back in 2010. IMA objected to this GO and gave the court judgment of Poonam Varma Vs Ashwin Patel and others which is a landmark judgment in the country which has advocated that "crossing specialty" or "crosspathy" is not allowed. This has been there for almost three decades,” Dr Ravishankar told TNM.
"Names of AYUSH practitioners who prescribed modern medicine were on the list of quacks that had been submitted to the government and actions have been taken against them for prescribing medicines. We believe such practitioners must have gone to the government to cajole them into giving such a GO, claiming they’ve also studied a few hours on the ‘Pharmacology of Allopathy’ and so they should also be allowed to prescribe certain drugs. But there was another order which says these practitioners cannot prescribe exclusive ‘allopathy’ drugs. Only based on this GO, after almost 12 years, the court has ruled this case," he said.
"If AYUSH is good, let them prescribe AYUSH. But, crossing specialties cannot be allowed. If cross-pathy is allowed, what would happen if all modern medicine doctors were allowed to practise Siddha, Ayurveda, and Homeopathy? Do you think all these practices will survive? The system will not survive. We are not going to allow this to happen," he told TNM.
It is to be noted that the members of IMA had earlier staged protests against the Union government's decision to allow the post-graduate practitioners in some specific streams of Ayurveda to be trained to perform general surgeries in the late 2020.