In a significant relief to MBBS students studying in private medical colleges in Kerala, the state government has permitted them to study autopsies at government medical colleges. This move comes after Health Minister Veena George issued a directive to the Directorate of Medical Education (DME). The DME will be responsible for preparing the guidelines for providing autopsy lessons to MBBS students at private medical colleges.
This decision was made in response to a Facebook post by Dr. Shreelakshmi J., an assistant professor of forensic medicine at Wayanad’s Dr. Moopen Medical College, in which she explained the difficulties faced by students and professors at private medical colleges in Kerala. 'I recently noticed the Facebook post about the difficulties faced by MBBS students in private medical colleges. I have asked the DME to submit a report on the same. Necessary steps to resolve the issue will be taken based on the report', the Health Minister responded.
The guidelines from the National Medical Council (NMC) require medical students to observe 15 postmortem procedures. Since autopsies are conducted only in government-run colleges in Kerala, students at private colleges face challenges in witnessing these procedures to meet the guidelines. They often have to rely on colleges in other states to witness procedures conducted by non-teaching staff. This lack of experience in autopsies can create problems for students who, after clearing the state public service commission test, join government hospitals or seek opportunities in other states.
Dr. Shreelakshmi further explained, 'The previous NMC guidelines mandated 10 autopsies, which has now increased to 15. The other option is a video demonstration, but it fails to provide students with the required learning. They require better exposure.' She also highlighted space constraints and limited facilities in autopsy rooms in government hospitals. The students and professors at private medical colleges have been requesting the DME to allow private medical MBBS students to witness and learn autopsies, and the health minister's directive provides some hope.
An official from the DME informed that the facility to observe and conduct postmortems has been available to students at private medical colleges since October 2020. Students studying in any medical college affiliated with the Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS) can access this facility by paying a specific fee. In 2021, the Kerala High Court ordered the provision of all required infrastructure for autopsies, based on which the state government allowed students to learn autopsies in 138 taluka, district, and general hospitals under the Directorate of Health Services. However, this was not implemented due to a shortage of doctors.
Students, however, remain apprehensive about the new directive and are still questioning the feasibility of its implementation while keeping their fingers crossed.
(Inputs from various media sources)