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IMA Chief Reassures AI Cannot Replace Doctors

Written by : Jayati Dubey

May 2, 2024

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Asokan emphasized the irreplaceable bond between patients and doctors, stating AI or any technological innovation cannot replicate it.

After coming strongly against the government's stance on healthcare as a sector, calling it an ‘Orphan’, the IMA Chief today said, despite the innumerable impact of AI in healthcare, the technology, however, can't replace doctors.

Dr R V Asokan, chief of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), during a recent interaction with PTI, highlighted that while AI can aid medical practitioners, it cannot replace doctors.

"Nobody can replace a doctor. As long as the patient is vulnerable and is in a situation where he is so helpless that no science can treat him, only that touch, that hope, that eye contact, that assurance of a doctor can work," the IMA chief noted.

Why AI Can’t Replace Doctors

According to Asokan, the unique bond between patients and doctors cannot be replicated by AI or any technological innovation.

While acknowledging the potential of technologies such as AI, telemedicine, and robotic surgery in enhancing medical practices, Asokan reiterated that doctors will always play a central role in healthcare delivery.

He emphasized the holistic nature of medical practice, stating that the art of medicine transcends the science of medicine.

Addressing Violence Against Doctors

Apart from the doctor's essential role, the IMA chief also expressed concern over violent attacks on doctors.

He highlighted the need for centralized laws to protect healthcare professionals. Such attacks, he noted, have unfortunately become ingrained in the culture due to high expectations and unmet needs.

Further, Asokan urged the government to provide legal protection to doctors in a way similar to that afforded to airline staff.

While acknowledging the passage of laws in 23 states to address violence against doctors, Asokan noted their ineffectiveness on the ground.

He emphasized the need for more robust legal measures and cited the amendments to the Epidemic Diseases Act as a step in the right direction.

Asokan addressed concerns regarding medical negligence and emphasized that doctors should be held accountable under civil law rather than criminal law.

"We may be answerable on the law of torts or the civil law. A crime is defined as having an intent. If there is no intent then there is no crime. If it's a murder, then its a different thing. Otherwise during the process of treatment if there is a death there is no criminal intention. You cannot accuse the doctor of a criminal intention. Something might have gone wrong. Civil law is adequate to handle that situation," he said.

Asokan also highlighted the distinction between criminal intent and unintended errors in medical treatment, advocating for a balanced approach to addressing medical errors.

Ethical Practices in the Pharma Industry

Responding to allegations of pharmaceutical companies influencing doctors, Asokan stressed the importance of adherence to professional conduct and ethics.

He emphasized the applicability of the Medical Council of India's regulations and advocated for ethical practices across industries involved in patient care.

Asokan addressed concerns over the working hours of medical professionals, highlighting the need for reasonable working hours and adequate rest.

He cited the disparity between the working hours of doctors and other professionals, advocating for a reduction in working hours to ensure the well-being of medical practitioners.

Dr R V Asokan's remarks underscore the indispensable role of doctors in healthcare and the need for ethical practices, regulatory measures, and legal protection to safeguard the interests of medical professionals.


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