NEW DELHI: The Indian Medical Association — the largest body representing private doctors in India — on Monday warned of “retaliation” amidst reports that the last rites of medical professionals who died after contracting COVID-19 were being obstructed by members of the public.
“Denial of dignity in death is the ultimate sacrilege,” said the association.
On Sunday, people carrying the body of a 52-year-old neurosurgeon in Chennai who had succumbed to coronavirus — which he apparently contracted from a patient — were brutally attacked by 50 people who did not want the body to be buried in a cemetery.
A similar incident was also reported from Shillong, Meghalaya, a few days ago when relatives of a popular doctor who died of the infection had run from pillar to post to bury his body.
“It is a matter of great concern that these doctors who had died in the line of duty are treated shabbily and in such an uncivilised manner,” said the IMA in a strong worded statement. “Even more shocking is the utter helplessness of the state governments in preventing such incidents. If the governments do not have power to stop such incidents, they lose their moral right to govern.”
The statement said that while the association has shown “much restraint in spite of extreme provocations” such as abuse, violence, spitting, pelting of stones, denial of entry to societies. It warned that if the governments fail to perform their duties, it will decide on “appropriate retaliatory measures.”
It also demanded enactment of a central law on violence against doctors that was proposed by the Union health ministry but later stalled by the home ministry.
The association has now asked doctors and healthcare workers across the country to light a candle at 9 pm on 22 April as a protest against the violence and abuse. The IMA termed it a "white alert" to the nation.
It said that doctors across the country will work with black badges on April 23 and declare it a "black day" if the government fails to expedite the legislation.
There have been several incidents of attacks on healthcare workers and cops by people in different parts of the country, including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, leading to injuries to doctors, paramedics and police personnel.