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How to tell genuine physicians from quacks

health-and-fitness Updated: Apr 22, 2012 17:45 IST
Shweta Mehta
Shweta Mehta
Hindustan Times
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It might be hard to lose weight or rid yourself of ailments, big or small, but whatever you do, if any treatment is described as ‘miraculous’ or as offering an ‘instant cure’, avoid it like the plague. And make sure you stay away from the doctors who advocate them too.

Unqualified practitioners, or ‘quacks’ as they are called, have been around for ages, and the expertise with which they manipulate degrees and subsequently, patients, is growing harder to tackle.

For the respected lot, who’ve been through their paces and earned their titles, there’s nothing worse than a doctor who isn’t really a doctor."I’ve encountered many cases where people with advanced conditions have consulted local practitioners without knowing their

qualifications. They ended up complicating their problem to the level of fatality," says Dr Anil Patil, founder of Vedicure Wellness Centre.

His thoughts are echoed by cosmetologist Dr Rekha Gonsalves, who says, "People get attracted by their huge advertising and marketing initiatives, but these so-called doctors don’t even know what treatment protocol is, let alone how to handle side effects."

Specialty is the key according to Dr Nupur Krishnan, a nutritionist. "You must know who to go to for what ailment. For fever, a general practitioner, for blockages, a cardiologist, and so on. Similarly, a certified nutritionist for cholesterol or eating patterns," she says.

Without naming anyone, she reveals that even some of the best-known doctors in her own field are not correctly qualified for their jobs. She stresses that patients must check whether the doctor they consult has a degree or diploma, as both courses teach slightly different subjects and methods.

The solution, according to Dr Amrapali Patil, a general practitioner, is thorough background checks and frequent evaluation of doctors.

"And if you discover midway through the treatment that the doctor is a quack, you must report her or him to the local legal authorities as well as the Medical Council of India (MCI)," she adds. Dr Anil Patil says, "The current registration system for doctors has not proved effective, so I would suggest stricter implementation at the local level."

Why do we fall for the ‘miraculous treatment’ myth?

Says Dr Anil Patil, "A patient is always weary of the suffering that comes with disease. He wants early relief. There is a saying: ‘The older the disease, the more restless the patient’, so he succumbs to such advertisements." All qualified doctors warn that if such methods did work, they’d be practised commonly, and would show visible effects all the time.

Not the real deal? Here’s how to identify a quack
Check the doctor’s degree and specialty. Strange degrees like electro homeopathy, GFMA and BEMH are unheard of in medical practice and are probably acquired from dubious sources.

As per the Government of Maharashtra’s rules, only graduates with the qualifications of MBBS, BAMS, BHMS, BUMS and BNYS get registration for treating patients. It is mandatory to display this registration certificate in every clinic and hospital.

Check for a registration number. The Medical Council of India (MCI) provides registration to those doctors who submit their certificates for verification, and are passed by the concerned authorities. It also conducts qualifying tests for foreign medical degree holders.

Those who are fakes fail the test and can be weeded out.

Some doctors who are well known may also have loopholes in their qualifications, and may have made it big with a bit of luck. Even with them, check if they have not just any degree, but one with the relevant specialisation.

Quacks usually practice in congested or remote areas that are mostly populated by impoverished or ill-educated people who won’t question their authenticity.

Alternately, some may position themselves in the most upscale areas to ensure that no one doubts their background.

Sometimes, to cut corners, these doctors offer treatments at highly discounted rates, which are unmandated.

Don’t fall for terms like ‘instant results’ and ‘miraculous treatment’, even if other, qualified, doctors have given you less hope or prescribed more expensive treatments.