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Wednesday, Jun 19, 2002

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`More awareness needed on healthcare laws'

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MEDICAL ethics, a subject of debate since the rapid advancement in technology, still remains in the chapters and verses of the regulating authority, while gullible patients have little assistance in getting the grasp or the moral courage to question if a practitioner ever goes wrong, according to Dr Kamini A. Rao and Mr S.V. Joga Rao, who have set up Pegasus Health Law Consultants to undertake this task.

Though legally empowered bodies like the consumer forums have been extending relief to the consumers, instances of the professionals too being falsely implicated have raised the issue of creating awareness among those involved.

Essentially, health care warrants and deserves exclusive and focused legal knowledge and expertise. Such knowledge helps facilitate a balance between competing and conflicting interests among patients, professionals and the public. Thus the need for enhancing awareness levels among all the stakeholders involved in healthcare assumed greater importance, they said.

Pegasus, formed three months ago with this objective, has made some progress in getting good response to the cause from the public and a few interesting issues have already formed the basis for it to pursue its objectives.

Talking to Business Line about some cases that Pegasus has taken up, Mr Joga Rao, Director, Pegasus Health Law Consultants, said a case related to the rule for issuing driving licence to people who suffer from epilepsy.

Though it is a curable disease, it continues to be an inhibiting factor for getting licence.

In the light of it being a curable disease, the summary rejection of licence for persons having suffered epilepsy should be discouraged, said Mr Joga Rao.

Similar is the case of HIV positive individuals whose acceptance in work establishment is summarily rejected. According to Mr Rao, no person suffering from AIDS can be denied the right to work unless his presence poses a serious threat to others.

Dr Kamini Rao, a gynaecologist, said Pegasus had made a beginning in creating awareness among both the medical practitioners and the recipients of their services.

To bring about a clear understanding of the issues relating to consent or informed consent or confidentiality in a doctor-patient or hospital-patients relationship, which have led to litigations and the raging controversies of sex determination tests and kidney transplantation, Pegasus plans to come out with the Doctors' Handbook on Medical Practices with emphasis on code of ethics to avoid friction between the consumers and the service providers.

A newsletter, `Mediverdict, has been launched by Pegasus to highlight various sensitive issues of medical ethics and patients rights.

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