Shrinking job opportunities and legal hassles have discouraged MBBS students from taking up a career in forensic medicine, data accessed from the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), Maharashtra, revealed. Nearly 50% of the 28 seats offered by the state had not been filled in the last two years as post-mortem centres continue to grapple with staff crunch.
Students said that the post graduation specialisation course is unpopular because only government hospitals and laboratories have forensic departments. They added that they are wary of medico-legal cases at post-mortem centres. In Mumbai, half to two-thirds of forensic posts are vacant in the five post-mortem centres, according to the home department.
About 13 medical colleges in the state offer 28 seats in forensic medicine and candidates are selected through the PGM-CET tests. DMER data revealed that 16 seats in 2014-2015 and 10 seats in 2015-2016 went unclaimed. Mumbai’s government-run medical colleges — Grant Medical College (attached to Sir JJ Hospital), Seth G S Medical College (KEM Hospital), LTMG Medical College (Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion) and Topiwala National Medical College (BYL Nair Hospital) — offer eight seats, but could fill only half of them in the last two years.
Though the number of post mortem centres have increased, job opportunities have remained stagnant, said experts. On the other hand, the number of seats has increased. “A decade ago, there were about seven to eight seats offered across the state. Moreover, private medical institutions have also been granted permissions to run the course. But job opportunities haven’t increased at the same rate,” said Dr Rajesh Dhere, associate professor, forensic medicine at LTMG and KEM Hospitals.
Students said that apart from lack of job opportunities, the field offers little job satisfaction and more legal hassles. “The branch mainly deals with MLCs with criminal offences, police investigations and court cases. Moreover, the job isn’t lucrative as there are no opportunities for private practice. There is also no guarantee of jobs once you complete the specialisation, which could be the reasons behind the complete turnaround of students,” said a third-year MBBS student from Grant Medical College.
Most women doctors also steer clear of the course owing to social taboo and legal hassles at the post-mortem centres, said Dr Sagar Mundada, President, Central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors. “The number of women opting for MBBS is more as compared to other fields, but when it comes to forensic medicine, we seldom find women opting for the specialisation. Moreover, students enrol themselves for the course after they fail to qualify for other branches of specialisation since they know there are limited opportunities in the future,” said Dr Mundada.
Notwithstanding state government’s plan to introduce new post-mortem centres and strengthen tertiary care centres in every district, medical experts said that forensic medicine will remain the less popular.