Maharashtra syllabus changed to sensitize doctors to sexual assualt patients
Victims of sexual assault can go directly to the hospital for treatment instead of having to first lodge a complaint with the police.
A revolution of sorts, soon to become part of a new more sensitive guideline on how to deal with 'survivors of sexual assault' for the medical students of Maharashtra.
The syllabus for Forensic Medicine and Toxicology for second-year MBBS and MD students (forensic medicine) has undergone a revision in order to give students proper training from a medical and legal point of view right from the beginning of their careers says a Times of India Report.
The Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) will become the first universities to adopt the guidelines prescribed by the Centre in 2014, once the syllabus is introduced during this academic year.
The outstanding feature of the syllabus shall be that the doctors will now be taught that sexual assault victims can approach the hospital directly after the assault, without having to go to the police.
Doctors will be legally required to treat the patients, perform tests and collect samples that will help the police in their investigation.
The new guidelines will introduce students to a comprehensive list of tests and samples for replacing the ad hoc process being followed till now, where doctors collect samples required for police investigation alone.
Doctors according to the new guidelines will now have the added medical advantage of not having to wait for police sanction to undertake time-sensitive tests such as DNA, sperm, nail clippings, etc.
Another major change that the syllabus incorporates is that it has become the legal responsibility of a private doctor to give basic treatment to a patient. He can no longer shirk responsibility by directing them to a government medical facility, which was the case till now due to lack of knowledge of proper protocol and news.
Other changes include extending psychological support to victims, greater sensitivity in dealing with them instead of treating them like a walking-talking crime scene, not using the commonly used phrase 'evidence of rape' while presenting medical findings , and, most importantly, taking the victims to a separate, private room for examination instead of the out-patient department (OPD). The new syllabus will also include guidelines such as strictly avoiding the use of derogatory language by supporting hospital staff.
The awful and unscientific 'two-finger' rape test to ascertain whether a woman was habituated to sex was outlawed, thanks to the new guidelines.
The credit for the syllabus switch goes to Dr Indrajit Khandekar, in-charge of the Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit at Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS) in Sevagram, Wardha. He firmly believes , that the new guidelines will go far ito serve both doctors and patient interests...
"If we teach the old format and ask them to use the new procedure during examination, doctors will fail to handle the medico-legal aspects of cases effectively. If teaching and actual practice complement each other, the outcome will be definitely better," Dr Khandekar told TOI.
Dr Khandekar is also the person who was instrumental in drafting the guidelines for the Centre's approval, back in 2014. A PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court based on his study report called 'Pitiable & Horrendous Quality Of Forensic Medical Examination Of Sexual Assault Cases'.
Other positive changes outlined by the manual are to ensure privacy of the victim , providing counselling and support, as well as comprehensive care addressing issues like physical injuries, STDs, HIV, Hepatitis B, etc.