THE MEDICAL AMMENDMENT BILL

We are really sorry that the BIll to amend the Medical Registration Act, which tbe Hon. Mr. V. J. Patel introduced in the Bombay' Legislative Council, was thrown ont on its first reading. The voting was 20 for and 24 against the Bill. A rather amusing incident occurred when the Council passed to the next item of business. Mr. Patel asked the PresIdent whether the three gentlemen who had been appointed to the Council as “experts" for the special purpose of the Medical Bill, were entitled to take part in tbe other business before the Counctl. His Excellency replied that they were not, and the three gentlemen had to make a hasty exit from the Council Chamber. But for tbese three gentlemen,
the majority against Mr. Patel's Bill would have been only one. The position of the “expert" nominated in such circumstances is somewhat ridiculous, and we hope that, in future, whenever "experts" are appointed, it may be possible to so arrange things as to enable them to make their exit in a less conspicnous manner. We have beard some flippant Similes regarding the part of the three medical "experts" at the legislatIve fanction in connection with the Medical Bill, and it is due to the gentlemen whom Government are pleased to honour in that way that they should not be exposed to cheap raillery. The provision in Mr. Patel's Bill which evoked opposition was that which sought to exclude expressly the study, practice, management of institutions, and professional association with practitioners, of “the Ayorvedic, Unani, or other indigenous systems of medicine," from the category of “infamous conduct" under the Act. The Medical Council in Bombay seems to have taken action against a gentleman who conducts an Ayurvedic College for "infamons conduct," and the Bill sought to provide against similar contingencies in future. Sir Mahadev Chaubal’s argument that there is an appeal against the Medical Council’s decision to Government, and against Government’s decision to the High Court, is not to the point which is that it is improper for a body of medical men exclusively of one school, organised under the auspices of and subsidised by Government, to declare it “infamous” conduct on the part of any medical man even to associate as a consultant with an Ayurvedic or Unani practitioner. “Infamous” of course, has a technical significance, but even so, if this pretension does not mean that the Ayurvedic and Unani doctors are to be ragarded as “untonchables” and pariahs of the profession, we do not know what it does mean. The phrase “or other indigenous systems of medicine” was, of course vague and lent itself easily to attack. Sir Mahadev Chaubal took advantage of it and raised, or attempted to raise, a laugh in the Council by referring to naka dolacha vaidya, wayside eye doctors, who, according to the Hon. Member, swarmed about the gates of Government House in Poona, as likely to be included in Mr. Patel’s category. If it is the fact that these vaidyas haunt the road near Government House, His Excellency, with his constant consideration for those needing help, as splendidly illustrated by his placing Government House at Mahableshwar at disposal of the families of officers who have gone to the front, will, perhaps, consider the desirability of establishing an eye hospital or dispensary in the neighbourhood of Government House whose splendours would seem to have an injurious effect on the eyes of those who frequent its vicinity. If Sir Mahadev had been less anxious to score a superficial point, and more desirous of helping to improve this piece of entirely reasonable legislation, he might have suggested to Mr. Patel, in Select Committee, to insert the word “recognised” in the loosely-worded phrase. “Other recognised indigenous systems,” will mean systems which have a literature behind them, and which are taught and learnt in a systematic manner. The result of the voting in the Council on Mr. Patel’s Bill is to leave matters worse than they were before it was introduced. The Ayurvedic and Unani systems have been pronounced by several speakers, official and other, to be quackery. The average man, no doubt, will still prefer to be healed by a quack to die unattended out of deference to the susceptibilities of the Medical Council. He will not be deterred by the verdict of the Council from resorting to the practitioner who can treat his ailments at a charge within his means. We have ourselves known at least one case, for which practitioners of the official system could do nothing, so thoroughly cured by an indigenous doctor (a Mahomedan) that subsequest of medical examination by the official doctors failed to reveal the least trace of the rheumatism. When the whilom suflerer told the examiners that he has had a bad attack of rheumatism they said it could not have been rheumatism, as every attack leaves some trace of it on the patient’s heart. This Mahomedan gentleman, belonged to the family of hereditary physicians to the Raja of Taujore. He was not himself a direct descendant but he had married the daughter of the Court Physician. This lady had acquired such a competent know ledge of her father’s science that when her husband, the practitioner, felt any difficulties about a case, he used to go behind the curtain which separated his zenana from his consulting room, and take the advice of his wife as to the course of treatment to be followed.

 

The only effect of the Bill being thrown out by the Council, will be to dater the medical graduates of our Universities from interesting themselves in the indigenous systems. This is a pity, because it is they that can best sift the chaff from the grain, and assimilate to Medical Science, which belongs neither to the East nor to the West, all that is valuable in the Indian systems. Any one who ventures to openly associate himself with Ayurvedic or Unani studies may be branded for “infamous conduct”. but we are sure that this will not deter all of them from taking up the study of the old systems. Even if there is nothing in them, it is better to have it conclusively established that this is the case. We, of course, have no sympathy with orthodoxy in any form. We have been recently reading a very suggestive work entitled “Professionalism and Originality,” in which the writer maintains that professionalism kills originality. Qualified medical men who are stigmatised as quakes, because of their study of the indigenous systems, may take comfort from the fact that the great Pasteur had to suffer similar indignity at the hands of the professionals of his time. Nobody wants to supersede modern anatomy or surgery by the ancient methods. But there are other departments of the healing art, in regard which modern medical science is quite as empirical as the more ancient systems. It is here that the study of the indigenous systems is likely to be most fruitful. His Excellency th Governor threw out the suggestion that the indigenous systems must have their own seperate organisation. This can be done only if Government extend to them some measure of patronage as in the case of the modern orthodox system. His Highness the Nizam’s Government supports both the modern and the indigenous systems by official recognition and liberal grants. We should be glad if the Government of Bombay follow this excellent example. Only in that case, can His Excellency’s suggestion become a practical proposition.

 

Indian Social Reformer : October 14, 1917 Page : 76

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