A committee set up by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) of India has held doctors violated the privacy of school students in collecting data about adolescent growth. "From the investigations, it is clear that the doctors were collecting data for commercial purposes and it had no link with the school health scheme," advocate Ashok Aggarwal, one of the two members of the panel, said.
In the circumstances it could recommend the cancellation of the licenses of the doctors involved.
The committee was set up after public outrage over the medical examination of the students of the Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, a school in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.
On July 17 and 18 this year, students from classes VI to X of that school were made to strip and their genitals examined by doctors who said they were conducting the survey on behalf of a private hospital in the region.
The doctor later claimed that such tests were necessary to detect hernia and hydrocele in children.
While hydrocele is collection of serous fluid that results from a defect or irritation in the scrotum, hernia occurs when part of an internal organ bulges through a weak area of muscle. Most hernias occur in the abdomen.
"Some of this data is so private that its disclosure could cause problems to the student in his or her personal life. The doctors had no business asking such personal questions for commercial purposes," he said.
Immediately after the controversial examinations a student had told the media, “The announcement of the tests was not done in the morning assembly, as claimed by the school. Instead we were told by our teachers. I felt very awkward when the doctor asked me to take off my trousers. He touched my private parts and asked me not to feel strange, as it was the only way of detecting hernia. He said that these diseases need to be detected early. Some of my juniors started crying when they were asked to strip. I was too shy to ask my teachers and my parents if this is the right way of conducting the tests.”
Aggarwal indicated that the panel might also recommend banning physical examination of adolescent students in schools. For students up to class VI, it will suggest that school ethics committees be set up to determine whether medical examination of these children is desirable.
The committee also felt that no medical examination should take place without the consent of students and their parents. If such examination is allowed, it should be conducted under the supervision of responsible teachers and representative parents.