Opinion: Should Physiotherapists be Allowed to use the Prefix "Dr"?

Should physiotherapists be allowed to use the prefix "Dr"? Physiotherapists in western countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc, are not allowed to use the prefix "Dr".
Physiotherapists have been a staple workforce along with other medical specialists in India. They facilitate general health and well-being through physical rehabilitation and injury prevention.
Physiotherapists have been a staple workforce along with other medical specialists in India. They facilitate general health and well-being through physical rehabilitation and injury prevention. Unsplash

Physiotherapists have been a staple workforce along with other medical specialists in India. They facilitate general health and well-being through physical rehabilitation and injury prevention.

However, should physiotherapists be allowed to use the prefix "Dr"? Physiotherapists in western countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc, are not allowed to use the prefix "Dr". Physiotherapists in India, another hand, have always used the prefix. Notable organizations and boards have weighed on the topic in the past.

The Supreme Court's verdict

The Supreme Court said that the Medical Council Act of 1956 mentioned that the prefix "Dr" is only in the Allopathic systems of Medicine. It further says that the prefix should not be used and considered for modes of therapy. Therefore, physiotherapists are not allowed to use the prefix as they're not registered medical practitioners.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) claims Physiotherapists cannot use the Prefix

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is a national-level voluntary organization of physicians in India. The IMA released a notification making it very clear that physiotherapists cannot use the prefix.

The notification quoted the Rehabilitation Council of India Act (RCI Act) of 1994. The RCI Act has a Section 2(i)(n)(xvii) which claims physiotherapists to be "Rehabilitation Professionals". Indian physiotherapists are regulated by the RCI Act and they must abide by the rules and regulations of the Act. The Act further claims that physiotherapists do not have the recognized qualification as mentioned in the Act of 1956. Therefore, they should not claim to be Medical practitioners. They have also used the term "quack" to denote physiotherapists.

State medical bodies like Tamil Nadu Medical Council are against physiotherapists for using the prefix as well

The Tamil Nadu Medical Council warned physiotherapists to not use the term "Dr". The council even made a list of private physiotherapists using the prefix to file a petition in a court.

The State government in 2009, stated that physiotherapists cannot use the prefix. The High Court further weighed on the subject claiming the same in 2010 and 2011.

The State government in 2009, stated that physiotherapists cannot use the prefix. The High Court further weighed on the subject claiming the same in 2010 and 2011.
The State government in 2009, stated that physiotherapists cannot use the prefix. The High Court further weighed on the subject claiming the same in 2010 and 2011.Pixabay

Indian Physiotherapists defend their right to use the Prefix

The Indian Association of Physiotherapists issued a letter in response to the IMA's statement in 2016. The letter claims the IMA statement to be a 'Defamation' of the Physiotherapy profession.

The Indian Association of Physiotherapists claimed that the statement misquoted and misinterpreted certain statements of the Act. They believe using the prefix is their right and that the statements are only to tarnish and defame physiotherapists.

Let's see what some of the healthcare professionals had to say when asked by MedBound Times about this issue

The response given by the Indian Association of Physiotherapists has made it clear very that we (physiotherapists) should use the prefix. I do not believe the term quack applies to physiotherapists as an Indian physiotherapist qualifies from a university recognized by the prestigious University Grants Commission (UGC). Physiotherapy is essential not only for rehabilitation and injury prevention but also for general health. Therefore, someone practicing physiotherapy should be given the right to use the prefix

Dr. Unnati Dayaramani, BPT, a reputed physiotherapist practicing in Mumbai.

"Physiotherapy is essential not only for rehabilitation and injury prevention but also for general health. Therefore, someone practicing physiotherapy should be given the right to use the prefix".
"Physiotherapy is essential not only for rehabilitation and injury prevention but also for general health. Therefore, someone practicing physiotherapy should be given the right to use the prefix".Unsplash

Nirali Patel, second-year Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT) student in Mumbai.

"Physiotherapy students are made to study medical subjects like Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, etc. Therefore, if we have a curriculum based on the theory and understanding of medical subjects, should be allowed to use the prefix."

Akshada Patil, third-year BPT student

"We live in a modern society. There is plenty of evidence and scientific literature to claim that physiotherapy has been an essential tool for the management of many medical conditions. Therefore, it is our right to use the prefix".

Physiotherapists in the USA and other western countries are not allowed to use the prefix of a doctor. Physiotherapists are not necessarily trained to diagnose a particular condition. For example, an orthopedic has to diagnose a condition. Physiotherapists, on the other hand, use their rehabilitative techniques once the diagnosis is already carried out. Physiotherapy is a noble profession. If I were a physiotherapist, I would proudly call myself a physiotherapist, not a doctor.

Dr. Munish Raizada, MD, FAAP, CEO of MedBound

Aishwarya Iyer, third-year BPT student

"Physiotherapists use the same procedure of treatment just like an Allopathic, Homeopathic, or Ayurvedic Doctor. We take the history, ask for signs and symptoms and prescribe rehabilitative treatment. Therefore, it is quite obvious that we should get to use the prefix as well."

Dr. Darshit Patel, MD, Mumbai

"I think that Physiotherapists can & should be considered Doctors. When you look at the term ‘DOCTOR’, what does it mean? It mean someone who is learned and has expertise in a particular field of medicine or any other domain. It is a title that we earn after rigorous training, both practical & theoretical. Physiotherapists go through similar procedures and they interact with and address the issues of their Patients on a regular basis. In fact, being addressed as a doctor or not actually must not be a highlighted issue, one who has knowledge and sincerity is well aware of his/her capabilities and is not bothered by titles. Like how a Lion doesn't become a Mouse if you name it a ‘mouse’, it still is as dreadful and powerful as it is supposed to be or vice versa... Deeds matter, titles are just narcissistic jewels".

Dr. Steven Veengas, DPT, Long Island, New York

Dr. Munish Raizada met Steven Veengas, DPT, at a physiotherapy center in Long Island, NY. Steven works as a senior physical therapist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in NY. When asked this question, Steve said that even though he is a doctor of physical therapy (DPT), he rarely uses the term Dr to introduce to his patients so as not to create confusion with doctors (MDs) in the minds of patients. He did, however, mention that a small percentage of physical therapists use the term doctor, and it is not the norm in the US.

MedBound Times also asked people from non-medical professions for their opinion on the issue.

Mrs. Bala, a patient who had a history of severe back pain

"I used to suffer from severe back pain. I visited an orthopedic doctor who prescribed me medications and pills. I was frustrated with the number of tablets to take every day. I decided to go to a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist went on with her procedures and prescribed me some of her drills. My back pain has been under control ever since. Therefore, I believe that physiotherapists must use the prefix."

Mr. Singh, a senior-citizen

"I think physiotherapists should use the prefix. They are doctors, in my opinion."

Ms. Dabholkar, a reputed Architect in Mumbai

"I never saw physiotherapists as Doctors. Physiotherapy procedures are effective but can be used parallelly to a patient's Allopathic treatment."

Mrs. Rane, an engineer in Mumbai

"Physiotherapists are doctors, in my opinion. Medications and tablets can only take you so long."

Physiotherapists have been a staple workforce along with other medical specialists in India. They facilitate general health and well-being through physical rehabilitation and injury prevention.
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Physiotherapists have been a staple workforce along with other medical specialists in India. They facilitate general health and well-being through physical rehabilitation and injury prevention.
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