As India faces a severe second wave of COVID-19, increased importance has been placed upon the medical professionals of this country. These medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, etc. are imperative in our nation’s collective struggle against COVID-19. However, not all of these professionals are working in good faith, with some going as far as to consider the political allegiance of their patients before giving out medical advice. This is in clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath, an oath of medical ethics taken by all physicians.
However, for some doctors, that oath means paltry little.
Meet Dr Vikas Rastogi, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology at Topiwala National Medical College, B.Y.L. Nair Charitable Hospital. In a Facebook post on May 1, Dr Rastogi gives us an insight into his mind, writing about a hypothetical situation with a Modi supporter patient. In his post, Rastogi writes, “Today a bhakt called me because his dad has got COVID and Oxygen was low. I told him to take him to Ram Mandir or Statue of Unity for treatment…kaafi jagah hai waha pe kahi bhi bed daal dena.”
In essence, Dr Rastogi says that he will not give proper medical advice to “Bhakts” i.e. supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and tell them to go to Ram Mandir or Statue of Unity, instead of a hospital in order to seek medical treatment. This is a clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath and its foremost principle of “Doing no harm”. The post also violates the Indian Medical Association pledge stating, “I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.“
Instead of apologizing for his post which was receiving deserved backlash, Dr Rastogi doubled down. Rastogi justified his violation of various medical ethics, stating that as an Indian citizen it was his right to criticize the government. However, the controversy arises from the mindset of Dr Rastogi, and his clear disdain towards any patient who supports the sitting Prime Minister of our country, which can potentially lead to a patient being denied care. The controversy is not that Dr Rastogi criticizes the Modi Government.
Despite the backlash, Dr Rastogi has not yet deleted his post but instead changed the privacy settings so that the post is only visible to his Facebook friends. We know this because he confessed to doing it in a comment on another Facebook post, in which he talks about the backlash he is receiving for his post. Similarly, the privacy settings for this FB post have also been changed. However, OpIndia was able to secure a screenshot just in time.
This post clearly shows that Dr Rastogi has no regrets for his post. He believes in what he posted, which amounts to a clear violation of several medical ethics. Doctors cannot treat patients differently or prescribe different treatments based on the political affiliation of any patient. However, in his “hypothetical thought”, Dr Rastogi has no problem in denying healthcare to Modi-supporting COVID-19 patients. There is malfeasance on the mind of Dr Rasotgi, which also violative of the Hippocratic Oath.
Dr. Rastogi references another post that was not in violation of any medical ethics but contained some general anti-Maratha sentiments, including calling PM Modi a “murderer”.
The big concern regarding Dr Rastogi, or any such doctors with a similar mentality, is that they are at risk of potentially letting their politics guide their medical practice. Will someone like Dr Rastogi, who calls PM Modi a murderer, give proper medical advice and treatment to the so-called “Bhakts”? Not according to their posts on Facebook, which reveal a clear contempt towards any supporters of the sitting Prime Minister, even going as far as to blame the “Bhakts” for India’s COVID-19 miseries.
How exactly are the people supposed to trust their doctors, if some doctors view a certain section of the population differently because of their political beliefs? This is a real mess that has the potential to lower trusts in Doctors and other medical professions at a time when our country needs it the most.