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The Doctor-Society Relationship in India Before the Rise of Corporate-Style Hospitals, 1947-1980


· Kiran Kumbhar Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Cambridge, United States of America)


07/26 | 15:50-16:10 UTC+2/CEST


Since the 1980s, highly consequential changes have occurred in medical education and medical provision in India, particularly the increasing presence and dominance of private medical colleges and corporate-style hospitals. These developments are commonly blamed by many doctors in India for the commercialization of medical practice and for the metamorphosis of the patient-doctor encounter into a ‘consumer-provider’ transaction. However, a historical exploration of the perceptions and attitudes of doctors and the public shows that the ‘service versus business’ aspects of biomedical practice were being debated in India for decades the 1980s. Besides, neither biomedicine nor biomedical doctors have ever enjoyed complete hegemony in terms of public support and trust. In this paper I trace the tumultuous evolution of the relationship between the biomedical profession and the public in India from 1947 till 1980. I explore the reflective writings of doctors in medical journals, memoirs, popular magazines, etc., the writings of journalists and other members of the public, and documents related to legal suits against physicians, to better understand how doctors and people in India thought about each other before corporate-style medical care provision further transformed these perceptions. This study will thus help understand better the origins of the radical changes that occurred in the relationship between doctors and patients in India beginning in the 1980s - changes that have had immense social and cultural impact in the country.