Medical Doctors Strike: An Ethical Overview with Reference to the Indian Context

Ramesh P Aacharya and Sibichan Varghese

Background: Medical doctors’ strikes are a common global phenomenon. In the recent past, a number of strikes have been reported in various developing countries including India. The objective of this ethical overview is (a) to study and describe reasons, modalities and impacts of the doctors’ strikes in India, (b) to develop an ethical reflection on doctors’ strike and (c) to evaluate the doctors’ strikes in India using this ethical reflection. Discussion: In this literature based study, we discuss Indian doctors’ strike and its various ethical reflections and assessment. This paper is arranged in three sections in accordance with the objectives of the study. In the first section, we analyse the Indian situation with doctors’ strikes in terms of its reasons, modalities and its impacts. In second section, we elaborate a general ethical reflection on doctors’ strike explored using normative ethical framework. General ethical reflection developed based on the Hippocratic Oath and other codes, biomedical principles like beneficence, non-maleficence and autonomy, as well as ethical approaches like deontological and utilitarian reasoning, and traditional Indian philosophy. The third section focuses on the assessment and evaluation of doctors’ strikes based on ethical reflection developed in previous section. Summary: Indian doctors’ strikes are morally not acceptable and ethically not allowable based on deontological reasoning, Hippocratic tradition, different biomedical principles and ancient Indian philosophy. However, considering utilitarian reasoning, doctors’ strikes for fair wage, better hospital infrastructure and working conditions are justifiable if it causes less harm to present patients and gives more good to the future patients.