CHENNAI: Taking advantage of a woman's illness, exploiting her vulnerability and putting her in an awkward position while examining her is a heinous behaviour, say medical experts. The recent incident in which a Filipino woman was harassed by a lab technician at a private hospital in the city when she came in for an x-ray has spurred many doctors to sensitize their staff about their behaviour towards women patients. The incident has also brought into focus the rules to be followed while screening women. Generally, say doctors, lady doctors and technicians attend to women. "When that is not possible and a male doctor or technician is performing the tests, it is a must for a woman attendant to present in the investigation room. It could be a staff nurse or a house surgeon.
This way, one can avoid any unpleasant incidents and also prevent false complaints from being foisted on the doctors and lab staff," said Dr Anand Prathap, resident medical officer at Government Royapettah Hospital. He pointed out that some investigations required patient to remove their clothes and accessories. "While this is normal, the problem begins when some male technicians make unnecessary moves and put the women in a spot," he said. Some clinics cannot afford to provide medical gowns to all women patients and insist that they get naked for the examination. "So it is a question of affordability in some places," he said. According to the Medical Council of India's code of ethics, the physician shall not aid or abet torture nor shall he be a party to either infliction of mental or physical trauma or concealment of torture inflicted by some other person or agency in clear violation of human rights. Making a statement about adultery or Improper Conduct, the MCI says "abuse of professional position by committing adultery or improper conduct with a patient or by maintaining an improper association with a patient will render a physician liable for disciplinary action as provided under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 or the concerned State Medical Council Act."
Pointing out that instances of human rights violations where there was no connection whatsoever between procedure and investigation were common in hospitals, Doctors Association for Social Equality general secretary Dr G R Ravindranath said many sick women blindly followed instructions of the medical staff. He said it was important to have trained attendants who can put patients at ease and help the physician pick up the nonverbal clues when a patient is uncomfortable, in addition to providing feedback after examination. "The staff should brief the patient on the tests before they begin and if the patient prefers a family member to be present then it should be arranged accordingly," he said.