A dentist in Meghalaya has stoked a controversy by prescribing whiskey to one of his patients battling withdrawal symptoms, at a time when only supply and sale of essential commodities have been allowed across the nation.
The dentist's alcohol advice has drawn criticism from the medical fraternity, which said the idea was "unscientific" and "unethical".
Dr B Purkayastha, who runs an oral health centre in Dhanketi area of the city, had prescribed two bottles of whiskey to a 65-year-old man, who visited him on Friday - a day after the state government rescinded an earlier order it had issued allowing home delivery of alcohol on doctor's recommendation.
The government, however, did not cite any reason for withdrawing the order.
A similar move by the Kerala government last month, in the midst of the lockdown, had also met with criticism from medical practitioners.
Dr Purkayastha reasoned that the patient was finding it difficult to deal with his withdrawal symptoms.
"He (patient) is having difficulty sleeping. I advised him to consume alcohol in limited quantity to avoid health complications," the dentist said.
According to his prescription, the copy of which was available with PTI, the sexagenarian was advised "not to drink more than 3 pegs (of whiskey) a day".
Alcohol does not figure in the list of essential commodities that the government had approved of during the lockdown, and almost all liquor vends were told to shut shop, as a precautionary measure to avoid mass gatherings.
Condemning Dr Purakayastha for prescribing whiskey, a general practitioner in Shillong said state health authorities should take "necessary action against this unscientific and unethical move".
He also said that the government order, issued on March 30 - allowing home delivery of alcohol - which was then withdrawn in a matter of three days, will go down in the annals of Meghalaya's history.
Another psychiatrist here said,"Doctors have never been taught to prescribe alcohol. An alcoholic is a patient and if there are medical emergencies, there are also ways to deal with it."
A rehab centre in Shillong, however, came out in support of Dr Purakayastha and said tipplers might need alcohol to control withdrawal symptoms at times, and if denied, it could take a toll on their physical and mental well-being.
"Ethically it is not right. But if it (alcohol) helps control the withdrawal symptoms, doctors can prescribe it," Kripa foundation director Bryan Jones told PTI.
The organisation had been running a de-addiction centre for alcoholics in Meghalaya over the past two decades.
On Friday, BJP's Meghalaya unit chief Ernest Mawrie had written to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, seeking permission to open liquor shops as alcohol consumption, he said, is a "way of life" in the state.
Mawrie, who is also the secretary of the Khasi Hills Wine Dealers and Welfare Association, said liquor shop owners are under immense public pressure to open their outlets.
Several alcohol shop retailers have also written to the chief minister requesting him to grant permission to open their stores, official sources said.