The court also recommended the formation of a separate ministry to oversee alternative treatment methods and directed the authorities to grant recognition to educational institutions and certificates related to alternative medicine education to ensure quality.
The ruling came in response to a writ petition by practitioners of alternative therapies seeking directions on the use of the title of 'doctor' by holders of degrees in Homeopathy and Unani and the formation of a separate body to regulate the field of alternative medicine.
In a 71-page verdict released on the Supreme Court's website on Saturday, Justice Md Ashraful Kamal and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil ruled that only those who hold an MBBS or BDS degree from a registered university can use the title of doctor in their names.
The notification issued by the health directorate allowing Homeopathy, Unani and Ayurvedic practitioners working under the 'Alternative Medical Care' plan to use the prefix 'Dr' in their names in March 2004. But the High Court termed the notification 'illegal'.
The court also ruled 'illegal' the notification issued Bangladesh Homoeopathic Board in February 2020, allowing physicians practising Homeopathy in different branches to use the title of doctor before their names.
However, alternative medicine practitioners may use the titles 'Integrated Physician', 'Complementary Physician', 'Integrated Medicine Practitioner' and 'Complementary Medicine Practitioner' before their name, according to the court.
The High Court held that alternative medical practices were not "fully defined" in Bangladesh's national health policy.
The proposed work plan for alternative medicine in Bangladesh and the National Health Policy 2021 mainly cites Homeopathy, Unani and Ayurveda as examples of alternative medicine.
However, the national health policy specifically states that the policy decision of the government is to expand the range of health services by incorporating alternative treatments in the public health system.
Alternative medicine has been around the world for 5,000 years, the court said, adding the ‘proper and correct training’ of these ancient methods will ‘improve’ the overall medical system of the masses.
Article 39 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of thought and conscience of every citizen, the court noted. "It is the fundamental right of every citizen to seek medical treatment using his own conscience and thought."
According to Article 40 of the Constitution, it is a citizen's fundamental right to decide whether to be a conventional doctor or a practitioner of alternative medicine. "Therefore, one of the responsibilities of the government is to prepare the necessary legal framework for becoming an alternative or conventional physician.”