The continuing series of reports on quackery in this newspaper has brought to light that numerous men and women disguising themselves as “medically skilled” persons are deceiving people in every neighbourhood of Goa by promising and prescribing cure to diseases they are not qualified to do. A large number of quacks are prescribing cure and dispensing medicines without any degree at all. Some of those without any authentic degree actually go about claiming their medical expertise on the basis of diplomas and certificates of courses from unrecognized or non-existent institutes and universities. There are technical assistants who run pathology labs disguised as holders of degree in pathology. There are assistants to ophthalmologists who are running clinics as ophthalmologists. There are those without any degree practising allopathy. And all of them prefix their names with the honorific ‘Dr’ in order to cheat patients.
In recent times, their types and numbers have only grown. The demand for “alternative therapies” is growing, and the quacks have been quick to capitalize on it. Doctors and healers are mushrooming in therapies in fashion such as reiki, aromatherapy, chromo therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, hypnosis, chiropractic, hydro therapy, magnetic therapy and bio-magnetic therapy. Most practitioners of alternative therapies do not have the qualification beyond short training from a ‘guru’ who might have had a short training from another ‘guru’ or from self-teaching, but they seem to be doing well not only among Goans but also among tourists. A majority of them are not registered with any authority and operate from hotel rooms or apartments, while a few enterprising ones run clinics.
There is a second type of quacks: those who have studied systems of medicine such as ayurveda and homeopathy but are practising allopathy. There are institutes run by educational entrepreneurs in some cities of the country that conduct a crash course to “teach” and “equip” graduates in ayurveda, homeopathy and other systems of medicine about how to practice allopathy. It is plainly farcical to claim that you can teach or learn allopathy in a few days – a system of medicine that takes at least six years for someone to learn. Most of the graduates in ayurveda, homeopathy and other systems of medicine who dispense allopathic medicines have not attended even a crash course.
An overwhelming number of patients who go to the two types of quacks in search of quick relief with allopathic medicines are labour classes and lower medical classes. The quacks usually keep their fees low in order to maximize their clientele. As the quacks do not have the ability to treat diseases in a scientific manner as an allopath would, their patients often end up with serious ailments owing to their quick-fix solutions. In one of its series of reports, this newspaper listed several cases of patients from a slum area who had developed serious illnesses following wrong and fraudulent treatment by quacks. Most of the illnesses were irreversible.
It is really distressing to note that none of the departments of the state government is willing to take responsibility for the gross fraudulence being practised openly by quacks in practically every street of Goa, rural or urban. The police department says it is the responsibility of the health department; the health department says it is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration; and the FDA says it is the responsibility of the health department; the Goa council of Indian Medical Association says it is the responsibility of the Goa Medical Council of the health department; the Goa Medical Council says it is the responsibility of the associations of ayurveda and homeopathic doctors; the civil servants say it is the responsibility of the professional doctors; the professional doctors say it is the duty of the civil servants. So, you can very well see how easy it is for anyone to prefix ‘Dr’ to his or her name and start practising medicine in Goa! Nobody will catch you. No government agency will arrest and prosecute you even if you prescribe medicines that ultimately cause irreversible damage to the health of the patients or kill them. You can be sure that the leaders of political parties are too indifferent or too scared to put their hands in your beehives to frame any law to put a stop to quackery. There is a law which is said to be in the making in the state law department. It has been in the making for more than a year. Perhaps it will never be made. The only option available to the people is self-help: just stop going to the quacks.