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Liver specialist accused of professional misconduct for calling Ayurveda ‘pseudoscience’

The Kerala State Medical Council for Indian Systems of Medicine has served a notice on a liver-specialist doctor, who has been accused of ‘defaming’ Ayurveda and calling the traditional branch of medicine a ‘pseudoscience’.

A letter dated January 31 pointed out that the council referred the issue of penal action against Cyriac Abby Philips, hepatologist at a Kochi-based private hospital, to the ethics committee of the Travancore-Cochin Medical Councils (TCMC) based on the orders from the Union Ministry of AYUSH. The council for Indian Systems of Medicine in TCMC is now seeking a reply from Dr. Philips as decided by the ethics committee.

The sequence of events started in September last year when Sadath Dinakar, general secretary, Ayurveda Medical Association of India (AMAI), filed a complaint against Dr. Philips with the Prime Minister’s Office, alleging that he had defamed Ayurveda, calling it unscientific and hepatotoxic through an interview carried on ‘Lucy’ YouTube channel, in June. The interview, with detailed explanations on how the use of certain herbs such as Giloy (chittamruthu) can be harmful to liver, had gone viral.

The AMAI functionary had also alleged that Dr. Philips had termed Good Manufacturing Practices-certified companies of Ayurvedic medicines ‘quacks’. The Union AYUSH Ministry later threatened defamation proceedings against him for ‘denigration of traditional systems of medicine’. The Ministry suggested that the ‘derogatory and misleading clause’ be immediately removed from the social media after intimating the Ministry, otherwise it shall be ‘compelled to initiate defamatory proceedings against the contravening doctor.’

Doctor’s response

The Ministry referred the issue to the National Medical Commission, which highlighted clauses 8.2 and 8.4 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, that deal with disciplinary and punishment actions. “The NMC forwarded it to the TCMC ethics committee. It is the council for Indian systems of medicine in TCMC, not the one on modern medicine, which has sent me this notice now. This council has no authority or jurisdiction to do so,” Dr. Philips told T he Hindu on Saturday.

He said that he would soon file a reply asking in what capacity he had been sent the letter. “They have not defined what professional misconduct I have committed. Under what clause of the ethics code has it been mentioned that criticising Ayurveda as a pseudoscience is a professional misconduct? They should first prove their charge, then only I need to respond to their letter. Otherwise I am not bound to reply,” Dr. Philips added.

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