Police Raj in Medicine

On Wednesday, private practice radiologists across the state went on a one-day token strike. Most of you would have missed it, since private practice radiology is not an essential service and public and private hospitals did not join the strike. Radiologists are doctors who perform and interpret x-ray studies, sonographies, CT scans, MRIs, angiograms and PET/CT scans and perform biopsies and other image-guided treatment procedures.

The strike was to protest the high-handedness of the Nanded police, who without proof arrested a radiologist, Dr. Gopal Battalwar, under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act on July 27. He is still in prison, denied bail.

On 24th July, a lady, Savita Ashture was admitted to a local Nanded hospital with heavy bleeding following an illegal abortion performed by a quack, Begum Arifabee, to terminate a female pregnancy. When the authorities were alerted, the police arrested Ms. Arifabee. They also found a routine pregnancy sonography report issued by Dr. Battalwar. Ms. Arifabee and the patient told the police that a non-medical assistant of Dr. Battalwar had revealed to them the sex of the child.  Suspecting Dr. Battalwar’s involvement, the police arrested him and dumped him in jail without bail, despite the assistant saying that she was acting on her own.

There is no proof that Dr. Battalwar had revealed the sex of the fetus to anyone. Even assuming he did, there is an Act, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC-PNDT) that has a clear procedure laid down for the law to follow. The appropriate authority (AA) who may be the collector or the ward-officer or the civil surgeon first seals the sonography machine and clinic, then institutes an investigation, files a case in civil or criminal court depending on the gravity of the crime (ranging from simple mistakes in paper-work to the actual heinous crime of revealing the sex) and if the sonologist / radiologist is found guilty, prosecutes him/her.

Dr. Battalwar has been arrested under the MTP Act, which applies only to those who perform illegal abortions. He had nothing to do with the abortion – radiologists DO NOT perform abortions – it is gynecologists, obstetricians, doctors authorised by the Govt. and quacks who do this. To arrest Dr. Battalwar for a crime he hasn’t committed, without due process or proof, and to keep him without bail for 14 days, is a travesty of the law. When there is a clear process laid down by an Act of Parliament related to sex determination violations, the police has no authority or right to side-step the law and to act on its own volition.

This kind of “police-raj” has become all too common. Arresting someone first, denying bail and then investigating and asking questions later…this has now become the norm. In the past too, the police has arrested doctors for negligence without any investigation or proof, based solely on complaints by patients…the Supreme Court has now put a stop to this, but there is no guarantee that a doctor may still not get arrested if the police rakes up some or the other obscure reason.

Despite the fact that 95-99% of all radiologists practicing obstetric sonography follow the PC-PNDT law to the letter and in spirit and DO NOT reveal the sex of the child to anyone, there has been no change in the sex ratio, telling us that it is the people at large demanding to know the sex of their unborn and the gynecologists who perform illegal abortions, who are the culprits…not the radiologists. The authorities have to shift their focus on to pregnant parents and more importantly the gynecologists and related doctors who are the ones actually performing female feticide. And the police needs to be a little less trigger-happy when it comes to radiologists and other similar soft targets!

Disclaimer: Bhavin Jankharia is also a practicing consultant radiologist.

24 Comments

  • Shows the high handedness of the powers that be. Surprisingly I did not even know of it from news papers or any other media channels. No rant on twitter either. Just a simple post from you on FB that you were on strike protesting but not much of details or maybe I skipped it.

  • dr.rukhsana sakarwala wrote:

    Hi! Good article. All of you radiogists should have had this agitation long time bac5. One should battle the high handedness of the police.
    Dr.Rukhsana

  • Sriganesh wrote:

    It requires a major PR exercise to be done by the Medical profession. As none of the Associations have a PR Agency putting through a proper perspective, this profession gets a raw deal from the time a person is intern to managing irate patients who beat up and get away. PR has to go across all media and on to Administrators, Police, lawyers and lay people. Unless the medical profession does this you folks will be the nice punching bag for all and sundry.

  • AnoneeMouse wrote:

    I am not surprised. The way our polity has turned out, everything and everyone is suspect. The only ones that are exempt from all peril are the politicians.

    In every walk of life, you find people destroying public spaces, private spaces, curbing free speech and then walking free. The simple reason is that the reckoning takes a long time coming – that too follows a GRAND UNIFYING THEORY. What can we do?… Pray you are the lucky one and don’t fall in a trap because there are very few who will lend a voice for something that does not hurt them directly / immediately.

    I feel sorry for the radiologist though. Now he will have to endure hell to get back his life.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    Is Dr. Battalwar being represented by a fool? Bail, in this case should be for the asking. Perhaps, politicians may have pressurized the police who are servants not of the people but of politicians!

  • Ravi Ramakantan wrote:

    >>The author­i­ties have to shift their focus on to preg­nant par­ents and more impor­tantly the gyne­col­o­gists and related doc­tors who are the ones actu­ally per­form­ing female feti­cide.

    Sorry Bhavin. This is way short-sighted.
    Ask why female fetecide and fix it!
    I feel the NATION has to shift focus how we treat our women.Why is the sex ratio most skewed in Chandigarh , the ‘hep’ city? Why is it best in the Southern sates; why is it reverse in Muslims?
    Answer these question,. learn from them and stat working on them,. And in a couple of generations, the sex ratio will come back. Use PNDT for 10 generation, the sex ratio cannot improve. You cannot make a horse drink water!

    I am surprised we have so many law makers who are so blind!!

  • One doubt. How could non medical assistant know the sex of child? Only radiologist can interpret sex of child and he should never tell sex of child to anybody. micocommpractice to earn money

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Raj. The assistant was running a racket where she would say that every child was female. This would ensure that the parent would go for abortion. The abortus is then said to be female irrespective of the actual sex.

  • Prashant Chaphekar wrote:

    Congrats Bhavin for opening debate on a complex issue.Two issues- 1.the mind set behind female foeticide and 2. terrorism of authorities , both constitutional and non-constitutional. No law abiding citizen is safe today if he doesn’t fit in their sinister plan.

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    This doesn’t make sense, there must have been a judge, and a defence lawyer to point out that wrong law has been applied in this case. But in india nothing surprises any more. A useful drug is banned out of blue without any scientific inquiry or investigation, without anyone reporting any serious side effect on some flimsy non scientific grounds. Then after hue and cry some committee appointed to decide. Shoot first and ask letter! But when figure come out of annual sale of 700+ crores the penny drops. The good radiologist must have refused, thinking that since he is innocent he need not succumb to pressure. A panel of doctor going to nanded and helping him would have been better way instead of ineffective strike. Look at the way politician of all party are uniting to bring constitutional amendment to reverse supreme court judgment about convicted politician. it is time now for all the doctors to unite , in mobocracy rights and wrongs loose their relavence. Follow the moral code in your individual conduct, but when anyone from the profession is under threat fight with unity. Has anyone been punished so far for wanting to know gender for the purpose of selective abortion? How many people who availed this services of Dr. S. Munde has beer named and charged?

  • Satish Rao wrote:

    If everything that is written in the article is true relating to the arrest of Dr Battalwar it is really a very sad story and also reflects very badly on our police. I am sure that Dr. Battalwar will have recourse under the law to sue the police for wrong detention and claim comoensation.

  • Prakash Sanzgiri wrote:

    Doctors are the easiest and softest target. Any person can hold us to ransom. How often we see hospitals targeted & vandalized , doctors beaten up by goons masquerading as social activists? How often patients relatives get aggressive at genuine or imagined wrong-doings? There are black sheep in each profession . However , medicos are targeted by bureaucrats , police and general public. Another aspect never considered by people and media is loss of face , destroyed reputation , ruined practice and mental anguish that the practitioner suffers in this period of trial by media , time spent in lockup. Wonder if a doctor proven innocent can sue media, political parties and Govt for wrong doings; one such case will be a pathbreaker.

  • Armaity Patel wrote:

    An eye opener write up!
    Keep it up!

  • Rohit Gosalia wrote:

    On one hand everyone talks about giving quick treatment – to any patient without waiting for paperwork. And when you learn about such cases – one realize why Doctors insist on filing police case before attending a bleeding person. Police take pleasure in booking Doctors or for that matter any professionals. Police must have concept in their mind they are here to protect common man and not to scare common man. No point in making huge advertisement campaign appealing to people to cooperate police dept if they really don’t mean.

  • Anand Desai wrote:

    Great Article… I think you guys as well as the other disciplines of medicine need a strong public educative platform . Get a good P.R. firm as well as a team of strong lawyers who would sincerely back this effort against the high handedness of the corrupt officials. But remember one thing… in case you do find a fellow doctor resorting to these unprofessional ways.. ASAP cancel his license and bar him. This would give strong credibility to the profession Sir. All the Best.

  • With reference to your writing that “it is the peo­ple at large demand­ing to know the sex of their unborn and the gyne­col­o­gists who per­form ille­gal abor­tions, who are the culprits…not the radi­ol­o­gists. The author­i­ties have to shift their focus on to preg­nant par­ents and more impor­tantly the gyne­col­o­gists and related doc­tors who are the ones actu­ally per­form­ing female feti­cide”
    It is unfortunate that you have chosen to intertwine the MTP and PNDT Acts when there is clear understanding that they regulate different issues and are each vital.
    Millions of women who need abortions for so many reasons, put themselves in harms way because they are unable to access them. Advocating control and further regulations on Abortions not only puts them at higher risk of losing their lives but is also short sighted in terms of reducing female feticide. It is a well known fact that women who want abortions get them one way or another and it is our responsibility as health care providers to women that they can access this with dignity and safety. this directly impacts on how women are treated in our society and how much we as a nation care for them. Provision of safe abortion services is as important as preventing female feticide.
    It is disturbing that you are advocating the trend of trying to shift blame from one speciality and indeed to pregnant patients. This is exactly what “divide and rule” was all about. We should be talking about both issues – putting in all efforts to prevent female feticide as well as do it in a way that does not put any doctor at a disadvantage whilst at the same time stopping female feticide.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Jaydeep. We have been requesting gynec associations at all levels to work with us for the last 5 years. Just one answer – it does not concern us and we are not worried.

    So guess what. From now on the radiologists will be doing just one thing – shifting focus onto the gynecs who are eventually the ones performing the female feticide.

  • DR DEEPAK SAHU wrote:

    KING KNOWNS WHAT IS GOING ON- IN HIS KINGDOM.–a marathi proverb.

  • DR DEEPAK SAHU wrote:

    BHAVIN SIR U R OUR PRESIDENT , IT IS U-R DUTY TO FIGHT FOR US. BUT AT THE SAME TIME U SHOULD BE AWARE THAT IN OUR SOCIETY FEW BLACK SHEEPS ARE ALSO THERE.

    SIR YOU HAVE A VERY CLEAN IMAGE AND CLEAN WORK BECAUSE OF THESE FEW BLACK SHEEPS YOUR IMAGE SHOULD NOT BE TURN DOWN.

    PLEASE WARN OUR MEMBERS NOT TO DO SUCH UNLAWFUL WORK OTHERWISE IRIA WOULD SUPPORT YOU..

    IRIA WILL SUPPORT ONLY FOR TECHINAL/PAPER WORK MISTAKES ONLY.

    SIR THE RATIO SHOWS THAT THIS WORK IS GOING ON EVERY WHERE AND OUR COLEGUE KNOWS VERY WELL.WHO ARE THE CULPRITS OF THAT PARTICULAR DISTRICT.

  • Dear Bhavin,
    I dont know who you have been talking to in the Gyn Associations. But I can assure you that we are very much involved in this issue. In Fact our parent Association has been working with the Radiology Association and we have attended with and invited colleagues from Radiology at several meetings. As I mentioned the approach that you are taking will be of disservice to not only women who seek abortion and deserve to have it safely but will be counterproductive to your cause. Remember that whatever laws or rules will be made for Gyn’s will also have implications for radiologists. We would be very happy to work with not only the radiologists but all stakeholders for not only preventing any undue harassment but also for the broader cause of stopping female feticide.

  • Lakshmi menon wrote:

    I believe both radiologists as well as gynecs are responsible. They are educated people and know that PCPNDT Act exists. Why cant they just follow it and tell patients who approach them to know the sex of the foetus and then to abort the female foetus, that sex determination and sex selection is a crime? At one meeting of radiiologists and doctors,one gynecologist told me “what can we do when the family requests to be told the sex of the foetus?” This is really pathetic. Doctors have a role to also educate people about valuing the girl child. Lakshmi

  • DR DEEPAK SAHU wrote:

    sir dont you thing that a time has come when we ourself should do our self audit/ or internal audit/assement– that what we are doing(or some of our 10-20% colleague) involved in malpractices eg. usg finding- BULKY SIZE UTERUS, X-RAY CHEST- PROMINANT LUNG MARKING’S., IN SURGEY- APPENDICITIES,
    GYN/OBST.– P.I.D…… WE ALL KNOW OR UNDERSTAND WHAT I MEAN.

    Now it is the time or alert signal given by the society or administration to stop unlawful work or unethical practise.

    otherwise the whole adminitration /society will be aganist you.

    it is better before they attack us, we should rectify/or stop our friends/colleague/self audit/internal assemant for doing such unlawful act.

    JUST THINK OVER IT WITH COOL MIND AND THAN DECIDE.

  • It is India and their admin. For everything they are very easy going int eh initial stages and later on when the problem becomes big, they try to blame one easy person on whom they can lay their hands on. female foeticide, problem going on from decades with a great desire for the male progeny to send his parents to heaven by doing the last rites and looking after the property his parents have made. Now in the present scenario, though the cause for the abortion of female fetus is a long chain parents themselves, in-laws, society who look at a female child in different downtrend attitude. in the medical professional it is the gynecologists, quacks, mid-wives and radiologists. In this hugely grown massive tree, radiologists are a small peripheral branch, which the government and PC PNDT people are trying to modify. Cutting the small peripheral branches in the tree is not going to help in correcting the system. What it needs to do is cut the roots (the parents, inlaws and the society) who is going to bell the cat, because here politics plays a major role, you cannot hurt the sentiments of the voter, many of the people who ask for the detection are powerfully connected, etc. My question here is let us for the discussion take that the radiologist has disclosed the sex of the fetus, why are the parents, inlaws and the doctor who performed not punished. Severe punishment to them is needed, so that it will make people think twice before coming forward to ask for detection…. i think this is the right way forward.

  • amit kumar wrote:

    Great and informative words.
    Thoughtless act.

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