WMA policy statement on participation of doctors in executions should be implemented

Health Care, Medicine No Comments

Dr KK Aggarwal

Should doctors participate in state executions or capital punishments? This is a very controversial issue in medical ethics.

Doctors are required to monitor vital signs during the process of execution (hanging in case of India) and look for signs of life and then pronounce death. This is against medical ethics.

Opposing the participation of doctors, the World Medical Association (WMA) came out with a “Resolution on physician participation in capital punishment” in 1981 and amended in 2008. The resolution states as follows

“RESOLVED, that it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions.

The World Medical Association

REQUESTS firmly its constituent members to advise all physicians that any participation in capital punishment as stated above is unethical.

URGES its constituent members to lobby actively national governments and legislators against any participation of physicians in capital punishment”

In its general assembly in 2012, the WMA again passed a resolution reaffirming its prohibition of physician participation in capital punishment.

“There is universal agreement that physicians must not participate in executions because such participation is incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. The use of a physician’s knowledge and clinical skill for purposes other than promoting health, wellbeing and welfare undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine—first, do no harm.

As citizens, physicians have the right to form views about capital punishment based on their individual moral beliefs. As members of the medical profession, they must uphold the prohibition against participation in capital punishment.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED that:

· Physicians will not facilitate the importation or prescription of drugs for execution.

· The WMA reaffirms: “that it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions”, and

· The WMA reaffirms: that physicians “will maintain the utmost respect for human life and will not use [my] medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat.”

The WMA Declaration of Geneva or the “Modern Hippocratic Oath”, first adopted in 1948 was recently amended in October 2017 at the annual general assembly in Chicago, USA. The revised version also states: “As a member of the medical profession:

· The health and well-being of my patient will be my first consideration;

· I will maintain the utmost respect for human life

· I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat”

This final version of the Declaration of Geneva has been accepted by all member national medical associations including the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

No doctor should be present during the process of execution. This is violation of medical ethics and is a professional misconduct.

The World Medical Association today has a membership of 112 national medical associations. IMA is a founder member of this world body. This makes India a signatory to all policies and resolutions adopted by the WMA. Hence, the WMA Resolution on Physician Participation in Capital Punishment should also be implemented in our country.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own.

Prolonged neck and back pain should not be ignored

Heart Care Foundation of India No Comments

Incorrect posture and sedentary lifestyle are two major causes of back problems today

New Delhi, 22 October 2017: Recent research indicates that about 20% of youngsters today suffer from some form of back and spine problems, with a majority of such people falling the age group of 16 to 34 years. The prevalence of these disorders has been found to be more pronounced in the cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Pune. The IMA indicates that it is not prudent to ignore back and neck problems. With timely treatment, the pain can be resolved by understanding the root cause of the problem.

Stress and lack of exercise are factors that can make the spine vulnerable to injury. This is exacerbated by driving on poor and potholed roads in cities. The spine is most important for accomplishing simple, daily activities such as sitting, standing, bending, and lying down. It is therefore, important to protect it and keep it healthy.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association (IMA) and President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Dr RN Tandon – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement, said, “Spine is one of the most marvelous parts of the human anatomy. A string of 33 bony blocks are held together by ligaments and tendons and supported by large muscles. The spine protects our spinal cord and the nerve roots to safely relay messages to and from the brain to various parts of the body. The spine is so designed that it helps in flexibility, strength, and mobility; and helps a person with his/her daily life. Two most important reasons for spine problems are prolonged working hours and lack of exercise. The roads in the cities are also not too kind to this part of the body, with constant jerks from potholes affecting the spine in a major way. It is imperative to keep the spine healthy as it is the backbone of a healthy body.”

Some symptoms of back and spine problems include weight loss, elevated body temperature (fever), inflammation (swelling) on the back, pain down the legs and below the knees, urinary incontinence, difficulty in urinating, fecal incontinence,and numbness around the genitals.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “Keeping the right amount of curvature in the back takes pressure off the nerves and will reduce back pain. If you experience fatigue or pain when you wake up in the morning or after you’ve been sitting at your desk for a couple of hours, it may be an indication that your posture is not right.”

The following tips can help in preventing back and spine problems.

Get moving Physical activity helps in keeping the joints fluid. A person who is not physically active is more susceptible to back problems.
Eat healthy If you maintain good eating habits, you not only will maintain a healthy weight, but you also will not put unnecessary stress on your body.
Sleep sideways The best position for sleeping is on your side. If you are sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under your lower abdomen to help take stress off your back.
Correct your posture and avoid stress The importance of good posture cannot be overlooked in preventing back problems. Additionally, stress can you to tense your muscles, and constant tension of this kind can cause back pain. Thus, it is important to find ways to reduce stress.

Justice delayed is justice done

Health Care, Medicine No Comments

Dr KK Aggarwal

We are all familiar with saying “Justice delayed is justice denied”. But this by no means is a rule.

Most recently, the parents of the murdered 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar, both dentists, were acquitted of the murder of their daughter after 4 years of imprisonment since 2008 by the Allahabad High Court.

Earlier, Dera Chief Ram Rahim was convicted after 15 long years and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Wrong has been done in both circumstances. While, the parents of Aarushi Talwar suffered imprisonment despite being innocent, in the other case, the Dera Chief was free for last so many years and enjoyed a free life in spite of doing wrong and probably kept on doing wrong.

The irony of the situation is that had these been cases of medical negligence, there would have been a public outrage against the doctor concerned. He/she might well have been arrested without the allegations being substantiated.

Both the above stories with two extreme judgements, became national headlines, exemplify justice delayed but justice done.

This then further raises a question, can the judges be made answerable? One who judged the parents of Aarushi guilty and other, who allowed the Dera chief to lead a free life.

If not, then why action against doctors?

In medical negligence cases, the benefit of doubt should always be given to the doctor unless mens rea can be established or the principle of res ipsa loquitur ‘things speak for themselves’ can be applied.

Justice should be imparted without any delay. It is wrong to delay justice.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own

« Previous Entries