The world’s top medical-ethics body has upheld a decision to make an Indian doctor its future president, despite controversy over corruption allegations against him.
Dr. Ketan Desai is scheduled to become president of the World Medical Association (WMA) in late 2016.
“It’s clear that the council is supporting the current decision which is that Dr. Desai will stand as president in 2016,” Dr. Ardis Hoven, chair of the WMA’s council – a body that makes recommendations to its general assembly – said at the association’s annual general meeting in Moscow.
Hoven is a former president of the American Medical Association.
The WMA’s new president, Sir Michael Marmot, a British doctor, declined to comment on the reasons for the decision.
Desai has denied any wrongdoing. He declined at the meeting in Moscow to comment about the allegations against him.
Conspiracy and corruption allegations have surrounded Desai since he was first selected in 2009 as a future president of the WMA, a body of more than 100 national medical associations that sets ethical standards for millions of doctors worldwide.
A Reuters investigation published in July reported that the WMA had stood behind the 58-year-old urologist despite criminal proceedings against him then in two Indian courts.
Reuters found that the Indian Medical Association – which Desai once headed – incorrectly told the WMA on multiple occasions that all charges against Desai had been withdrawn and representatives of major doctors’ organisations, including the U.S. and British medical associations, accepted the information as fact.
Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice president of medical professionalism at the Canadian Medical Association, said the WMA would discuss Desai’s situation further in the coming year.
“At the end of the day, the organisation needs to trust that the people in the position to make these decisions have all the information,” Blackmer said.
A case against Desai in New Delhi, where he is accused of conspiring to obtain a bribe of 20 million rupees (£200,000) from a medical college, is currently on hold, pending the outcome of an appeal by another defendant in the case.
Desai still faces charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy.
Proceedings in a separate case, alleging Desai was involved in a conspiracy to have the Medical Council of India – which he headed – allow a private medical school to add more students, were put on hold by a district court last month until investigators obtain government permission to prosecute.