(By Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis)
Following complaints from several quarters, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has openly declared that no doctor should be seen conducting personal advertisements or distributing souvenirs bearing inscriptions of particular health institutions, with a view to obtaining patients.
In a strongly worded press release signed by its registrar, Dr Ibrahim Abdulmumini, the MDCN explained that it is a long-standing tradition in the profession that doctors should refrain from self-advertisement.
“This has been so because of the appreciation by the profession that advertising could become a source of danger to the public, in that a doctor who was successful at achieving publicity might not in fact be the most appropriate doctor for a patient to consult,” he said.
The registrar noted that the complaints so far received showed medical and dental practitioners were either ignorant of the provisions of medical ethics code on advertising or merely disregarded them. He added that such adverts might also precipitate unwholesome rivalry among practitioners.
Speaking further, Abdulmumini remarked that any registered practitioner would be compelled to appear before the Panel and Disciplinary Tribunal, if he is found to have advertised himself, whether directly or indirectly, for the purpose of obtaining patients or promoting his own professional advantage.
“A practitioner shall also be subject to proceeding if for any purpose of procuring, sanctioning or acquiescing in the publication of notices commending or directing attention to the practitioner’s professional skill, knowledge, services or qualifications or deprecating those of others” he stressed.
The MDCN boss explained that health education is a component of primary healthcare, which is the cornerstone of the National Policy on Health, adding that doctors are often required to provide health education to the public in both the electronic and the print media.
“Doctors who get involved in performing such function should not use the occasion for self-advertisement. They should merely present their materials in such a manner as to only serve the purpose of public enlightenment on the health issue under focus,” he emphasised.
The registrar further warned that any medical or dental practitioner found to be engaged in or encouraging professional touting would be subject to proceedings before the Panel and Disciplinary Tribunal.
He noted that such act includes, but not limited to, use of canvassers and displaying of cards or calendars in hotels, banks or any other such venues.
“Practitioners are not allowed to produce or distribute calendars, key holders, wall clocks, trays and such other gift items because such items are promotional in nature and are likely to excite unwarranted and unhealthy competition among practitioners,” he cautioned.