Union AYUSH Ministry threatens defamation against Kerala doctor

Cyriac Abby Philips, hepatologist at a Kochi-based private hospital, has been accused of defaming Ayurveda and calling it unscientific and hepatotoxic through an interview carried on a YouTube channel

The Union AYUSH Ministry has threatened defamation proceedings against a liver specialist for “denigration of traditional systems of medicine.”

Cyriac Abby Philips, hepatologist at a Kochi-based private hospital, has been accused of defaming the Ayurvedic system of medicine and calling it unscientific and hepatotoxic through an interview carried on ‘Lucy’ YouTube channel in June. It has also been alleged that he called Good Manufacturing Practices-certified companies of Ayurvedic medicines as quacks.

Complaint to PM

The interview, with detailed explanations on how the use of certain herbs can be harmful to liver, had gone viral. Sadath Dinakar, general secretary, Ayurveda Medical Association of India, filed a complaint with the Prime Minister thereafter.

A letter from the Ministry, uploaded by Dr. Philips on Twitter says: “The act of giving derogatory interview or publishing it is misleading, mala fide and uncalled for. Dissemination of misleading information in such a manner is tantamount to deliberately tarnishing the image of AYUSH systems and infringe on the faith of people in this traditional system of medicine.”

The Ministry has suggested that the “derogatory and misleading clause” be immediately removed from social media after intimating the Ministry, otherwise it shall be “compelled to initiate defamatory proceedings against the contravening doctor.”

The letter dated September 10 has been forwarded to Director-General Health Services; State Registrar, Travancore-Cochin Medical Councils (TCMC); Principal Secretary, Department of Ayush, Government of Kerala, and Dr. Dinakar.

Doctor’s version

Dr. Philips, however, told The Hindu that he had not officially received a copy of the letter. “The Ministry has asked the TCMC and the National Medical Council to direct me to remove the video, or it will initiate defamatory proceedings. But you can’t defame a system of medicine. Also, if the NMC or the TCMC has to seek explanation from a doctor, there should be a case of medical negligence or fraud,” he pointed out.

Dr. Philips is the author of a number of peer-reviewed papers in which he has linked liver damage with the use of herbal medicines. Earlier, Dr. Philips had tweeted “Ministry of AYUSH, the watchdog of alternative systems of medicine in India WARNS me to SHUT UP and NOT talk about herbal drug toxicities and quack medical practices… So they send letters of concern against me to most medical authorities in India and my State 4 the people.”

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