A judge of the Orissa High Court has ordered medical practitioners to write “legible” prescriptions, preferably in capital letters
By Dr KK Aggarwal
It is an order that would bring relief to many patients. On August 14, 2020, there was news that the Orissa High Court had directed the state’s doctors to write “legible” prescriptions, preferably in capital letters. The judge stated that a medical prescription should not leave any room for uncertainty or interpretation. The order came after the judge found it difficult to read a prescription submitted by a prisoner seeking interim bail to take care of his ailing wife.
The Court also noted that illegible handwriting in prescriptions not only creates confusion for patients but also for pharmacists, other doctors, police, prosecutors and judges who may have to go through such documents during the course of a hearing. Justice SK Panigrahi made the observation while disposing of a bail application of Krushna Pada Mandal, who was accused in a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act case. “Every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names and preferably in capital letters and he/she shall ensure that there are a rational prescription and use of drugs,” he said.
Mandal who is lodged in a jail in Berhampur had filed a bail application seeking release to take care of his wife who is suffering from gynaecological, cardio-vascular and hematological complications and lives alone in Ganjam district. However, during the verification of the medical documents of Mandal’s wife, the Court found the handwriting of the doctor’s prescription illegible. Justice Panigrahi observed that the physician community at large must walk the extra mile and make conscious efforts to write prescriptions in good handwriting, preferably in capital letters. Illegibility or low legibility is a hurdle in understanding prescriptions and stands as a “barrier to proper comprehension leading to, among others, innumerable medical complications”, he said.
The advisory issued by the High Court is not new. It is the law of the land that doctors should write prescriptions in legible handwriting and in capital letters. In exercise of the powers conferred under Section 20A read with Section 33(m) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, the Medical Council of India, with the approval of the central government, had enacted the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 for registered medical practitioners. Each applicant at the time of making an application for registration is provided a copy of the declaration and he has to sign it.
Regulation 1.5 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations was amended in 2016 and reads as: “1.5 – Use of Generic names of drugs: Every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names legibly and preferably in capital letters and he/she shall ensure that there is a rational prescription and use of drugs.”
Allopathic doctors must also furnish a complete and detailed prescription and mandatorily mention the patient’s address and keep a blank space in which the pharmacist can specify his address. The comprehensive format includes the doctor’s full name, his qualification, patient’s details, name of the generic medicine or its equivalent along with the dosage, strength, dosage form and instruction, name and address of the medical store with the pharmacist’s name and date of dispensing, as well as the doctor’s signature and stamp. But the moot point is whether these guidelines are being followed.
—The writer is President, Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania, and former National President, IMA