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Do Doctors have a right to strike?: Dr. MC Gupta clarifies

M3 India Newsdesk Jul 09, 2019

There is a general misconception that doctors should not go on strike. Some people believe that the law does not permit doctors to go on strike. Some people believe that going on strike is against medical ethics. Some people (Dr. Kunal Saha, President, PBT—People for Better Treatment), has even petitioned the Supreme Court praying for a declaration that doctors don’t have a right to strike. The Honorable Court declined to grant the prayer.

So, do doctors have a right to strike?

Dr. MC Gupta answers

The facts are as follows:

i)—There is nothing in the Code of Medical Ethics against strike by doctors.

ii)—There is no law that doctors cannot go on strike. Please note that even IAS officers have officially gone on strike. Even Chief Ministers (Kejriwal, Mamata) have sat on strike/dharna while holding the CM’s chair. Doctors can’t be denied what is allowed to others.

iii)—Doctors study medicine to treat patients, not to refuse to treat them. But they can’t be forcibly made to treat patients while they themselves are facing assault.

iv)—Most of the strikes by doctors are against assault by public/patients’ relatives for no fault on their part. All that they demand is safety against physical assault!

v)—Doctors are the visible and vulnerable face of the health care system and hence they are the ones who face the ire of the public. The health care system is almost rotten. No health care system in a country can pull on satisfactorily with the country’s health budget being only about 1.1% of the GDP. At this level, India is almost at the bottom of the international list. Please remember that in European and Scandinavian countries and the USA, the national health budget is around 14-18% of GDP.

vi)—The unfortunate fact is that while the above fact is very well known to the country’s planners and politicians, all of them, including even the judiciary, keep on asking doctors to provide best care meeting international standards while continuing to work for a pittance in dilapidated buildings without necessary infrastructure, personnel, equipment and drugs.

In the face of the above facts, it should be open to everyone to see that while what ails the health system is the government’s policies and inaction, the public is made to believe that the doctors are the villains of the show, who need to be taught a lesson. Please note that even if they are the villains, even the villains deserve protection of law and cannot be punished for going on strike, which is permitted by law.


Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

Content from the writer has been directly replicated on the website. No edits have been made.

The writer, Dr. MC Gupta is a practising lawyer specialising in medical negligence cases. He also has an MD Medicine from AIIMS, Delhi where he also worked as a faculty member for 18 years, later working another 10 years as a Professor and Dean at National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi, before pursuing law.

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