Could the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police have better planned the arrests of the medical doctors it suspects of holding fake academic certificates? Yes, it could have. Most of the around 50 doctors the police have recently apprehended were arrested while they were on duty: some were doing their daily rounds in their hospital, others were with their patients. These doctors could have been quietly rounded up from their homes without the drama (and the ensuing controversy) of public hospital arrests. But were the police wrong to arrest these doctors if they have indeed obtained medical license on the basis of fake certificates? Absolutely not. The Nepal Medical Association (NMA), the umbrella body of doctors in the country, reacted furiously to the “humiliating arrests”. If the doctors were guilty, says the association, their medical license could have been revoked. Arresting and handcuffing them like common thugs, in its reckoning, was in poor taste.
Coming from the custodians of healthcare industry in Nepal, this is a strange argument. If the charges against them are true, these doctors were literally playing with the lives of their patients. Who knows how many of their patients have needlessly suffered—even died—because of these incompetent and unscrupulous doctors? Medicine is a sacred profession. Its practitioners take the famous Hippocratic Oath which compels them to work in the interest of their patients at all times, to always be committed to saving lives with the help of their expertise. The quacks, on the other hand, have no such expertise and they thus endanger the lives of potentially thousands of their patients with their incompetence.
The NMA should thus be helping the police to expose such cheats who besmirch the medical profession, not try to cover up the unforgivable crimes of the quacks in their midst. (These crimes include bodily harm, psychological trauma and even deaths of patients.) Surely, such criminals deserve to be thrown in jail. Limiting their punishment to stripping them of their medical license is akin to setting a thief free just because the police recover stolen items.
We are thus dismayed by NMA’s reaction to the arrest of fraudulent doctors. If the quacks cannot be arrested, if proven black-marketers in government cannot be brought to the book, if cartels and syndicates that are openly looting the people cannot be dismantled, we may very well ask if there is rule of law in the country. But if Nepal is a functioning state, it must be able to crack a whip on these criminal elements and when it does so, the society should support such state actions. Nepal Police is far from a faultless organization: it routinely ranks as one of the most corrupt organizations in the country. It has also been accused at various times, often with justification, of using disproportionate force against peaceful protestors. But if we are so quick to find faults with our police force shouldn’t we also encourage it when it is clearly acting in public interest? We would thus like to express our complete support of the recent police roundup of criminals in the medical field. If the NMA has proof of innocence of those arrested, it should furnish such proof. Otherwise, its officials should shut up and let the police do their work.