Updated on: Monday, November 30, 2020, 12:17 AM IST

Ayurveda and the IMA's unkind cut

The Sushruta Samhita, written in 600 BCE, speaks about heart surgery and cracks in the cranium (pridanam kapalam in Sanskrit) and how to fix it, but most surgical methods and measures described in the treatise are hypothetical, just like the polymath and the greatest Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of future aircraft, cars and parachutes. In short, there is no practical surgery.

"The Health Ministry of India along with IMA must look into the issue of how Ayurvedic and Homeopathic doctors in India perform full-fledged surgeries upon patients who're guinea-pigs in the hands of these incompetent doctors who've not learnt the basics of intricate surgery. These 'doctors' can at the most do incisions, but surgery of any sort must be out of their domain."

-Lancet, Editorial, 1997

"Ayurveda is a different and independent system of medicine/s. It must be based on the necessary aspects of Ayurveda only. Mixing it with Allopathy by incorporating surgery into its syllabus may sound a Medical Blasphemy to the practitioners of Allopathy. "

-Dr Devon Neil and Dr Clarke Stackpole, Lancet, September 2004

Despite the Lancet's repeated warnings and apprehensions, Ayurvedic doctors can now perform surgeries, with the Central government allowing postgraduate (PG) students to practise general surgery, alongside orthopaedics, ophthalmology, ENT and dentistry.

The Centre amended the Indian Medicine Central Council Regulations, 2016, to introduce formal training in the above-mentioned procedures as part of the curriculum for post-graduate students of shalya (general surgery) and shalakya (diseases of ear, nose, throat, ENT, eye, head, oro-dentistry) specialisations.

This is indeed alarming! It's a blow to the modern scientific approach to allopathy, which is based on the Experimental Diagnostic Method (EDM).

Ayurveda is indeed a genuine system of medical science rooted in India and the subcontinent. In other words, it's not spurious. But the point is: The approach of ayurveda is completely different than that of allopathy. Agreed, the Ayurveda of ancient India descanted upon surgeries, even cataract surgery and the Sushruta Samhita, written in 600 BCE, speaks about heart surgery and cracks in the cranium (pridanam kapalam in Sanskrit) and how to fix it, but most of the surgical methods and measures described in the Sushruta Samhita are hypothetical, just like the polymath and the greatest Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of future aircraft, cars and parachutes. In short, there is no practical surgery.

In his seminal book in Sanskrit, Anvya avam Mithak (Translated as Integration and Myths by the Spalding Professor Dr Bimal Krishna Matilal of Oxford), Professor V S Sukthankar, the greatest exegete on the Mahabharat at BORI, Poona, wrote: ' The so-called surgeries in ancient Ayurveda may have been prototypes of modern surgeries, practised, fashioned and bettered by the modern Allopathy. That the surgeries really did take place in ancient India could be a great myth....'

But the present dispensation and neo-nationalists, weaned on ancient India's perceived 'greatness', will vouch for plastic and brain surgery, as well as nose and jaw-fixing, by our venerable Ayurvedacharyas of ancient Vedic India!

Allowing Ayurvedic doctors to perform intricate surgeries will create enormous problems. It's akin to playing with fire. Remember, we're dealing with human lives. It's worthwhile to mention that Ayurveda is based on plants and extracts and how that can help ameliorate the collective well-being of mankind. It also emphasises a person's anatomical prakriti (constitutional proclivity). To encapsulate, it's naturopathy with a serious twist. All those ancient Ayurvedic treatises are in Sanskrit but if you look at the syllabus of BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicines and Surgery), you hardly find even a superficial translation of any of the 81 available Ayurvedic treatises of ancient India. Students and teachers of BAMS don't use Sanskrit terms. Instead, they resort to Greek and Latin terms of modern medical science and hurriedly learn a semblance of surgery to become a doctor to be on a par with an allopath! This is unjust and unfair.

Have you ever come across a BAMS who prescribes typical Ayurvedic medicines to cure an ailment? He or she'll have recourse to generic allopathic medicines. With such incompetent grounding in allopathy as well as their own ayurveda, how can they perform surgeries? They're not competent to do that. Yet, it's frightening to learn that 95 % ICUs are manned by Ayush docs (The Times of India, November 25, claimed by Vaid Jayant Deopujari).

No offence meant, but when these vaidyas (practitioners of ayurveda are vaidyas and practitioners of allopathy are doctors, medics or medicos) masquerade as docs and perform surgeries, even an atheist starts praying to god for mere survival! Jokes aside, only in India, the practitioners of all medical systems are docs. Like generic medicines, the term doctor has also become generic! But nowhere else, does one get to see this medical generalisation the way it's in India. In Iran and even in Pakistan, a practitioner of Unani medicine is not called a doctor. He's called a hakim, tabeeb (from the Arabic Ilm-e-Tabeeb) or the Persian chaaragar.

Not only that, they've to show that they're hakims or homeopaths on their insignia, to avoid confusion. Mind you, they're not allowed to perform any kind of surgery, whereas, a Unani hakim is a doctor in India performing major surgeries and there's a government-approved course for homeopaths, known as BHMS (Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicines and Surgery!). These 'docs ' cannot perform even an incision in advanced countries. But here in India, they do brain surgery as well! We're worse than a third-world country!

It's time to take into account the ongoing mayhem in the medical profession. All allopaths must come together to stop this nonsense of Ayurvedic doctors performing operations. But then, in a country where midwives are seen as gynaecologists, compounders as doctors and ward boys as surgical assistants in the OT, who'll stop Ayurvedic docs from operating patients?

It's a pity that the medical segment in India has always been neglected by all governments. Such a vital segment is still uncared-for. We've enough time to build and demolish temples and mosques, but no time to develop a world-class integrated medical system with competent doctors. It's all perfunctory and stop-gap healthcare in this country.

Lastly, Maharashtra has a proliferation of BAMS, BHMS and BUMS (Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery) colleges churning out an army of these quasi-doctors who're jeopardising public health and bending the rules of medical ethics.

The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and cultures.

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Published on: Monday, November 30, 2020, 06:05 AM IST