It has been a long and hard battle for two colour blind students in India to be admitted to medical college.

In 2015, the two students were both rejected from Tripura Medical College, despite having passed the admission test. It is not surprising considering that for decades, students suffering from colour vision deficiency (CVD) were barred from joining the medical industry in India.

Supreme Court called the practice “regressive”

Not wanting to give up on their dreams, the two students decided to take the matter to court. When their plea was turned down in the Tripura High Court – they approached the Supreme Court to handle this matter. On 7 July, the court had agreed and a decision was made on 31 July to lift the bar and end its decades-old practice.

The Medical Council of India (MCI), who were the respondents, argued that colour blind people cannot perform their duty as doctors, which is why they were barred from studying medicine in the first place. According to MCI, a colour blind doctor will not be able to do a fair diagnosis and prognosis of a disease.

The MCI’s explanation did not satisfy the Supreme Court as the court rejected their logic by calling it “regressive”. The Supreme Court then ordered a new committee to study this issue. With two ophthalmologists, a geneticist, a psychiatrist and a physiologist on-board this committee, a conclusion was reached that this restriction was not reasonable and should hereby be abolished.

The committee also used Japan as an example since it used to have the same restriction in place, which was eventually removed a decade ago. Other places around the world do not have any restrictions for medical students with different levels of colour blindness. The committee added that a formal decision will be taken in its academic general body meeting, which will be held in October.

High-achieving doctor in India speaks out on behalf of students

Ironically, the doctor, who established the first gastrointestinal surgery department in India, is partially colour blind. Speaking on how his personal achievements as a partially colour blind doctor, Dr Samiran Nundy expressed that “I have performed more than 25,000 operations, taught and trained hundreds of doctors, published 13 books, 230 research papers and edited four journals.”

Dr Nundy reiterated that colour blind students should not be cast aside; rather, should be given a chance, just like any other medical students. Representatives from the MCI have told the court that the mandatory screening for colour blindness has been removed – and students will only have to undergo the entrance examination to gain admission for medical courses.

Guidance should be given to CVD students

According to research findings from a study by the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) in Delhi, students with CVD can be guided and counselled for safe practice. This study’s researchers added that CVD students should be counselled instead of being labelled so that they understand their limitations.

In their report, the committee agreed that CVD should not be the reason for students not to get admitted to medical schools. As it is a common problem that exists among many people, there should not be any restriction at the stage of admission, completion of the study and registration as a medical practitioner.

In the 35-page report, the committee also iterated, “Firstly, the diagnostic and treatment process is not solely reliant on the ability to perceive colours. Doctors with CVD can also overcome their difficulties by carrying out a more thorough diagnostic assessment and taking the help of other colleagues.”

The committee reassured the court that there are no current international practices that accepts or rejects medical aspirants due to their colour vision deficiency. There are no such rulings as well when it came to the acceptance of doctors into medical practices. MIMS

Read more:
Overcoming colour blindness with glasses and gene therapy
5 doctors and medical students who turned disabilities into possibilities
Interdisciplinary training: The benefits of training medical students with other healthcare professionals