20May2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

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Doctors liable to take ‘reasonable’ care: Commission

A while back, the National Consumer Dispute Commission observed a doctor can be booked for medical negligence even if the situation doesn’t turn life threatening but reasonable degree of care is not taken while deciding on the course of treatment or while treating the patient.

GAUZE MOP LEFT INSIDE PATIENT

The Commission made the move after hearing a petition of a Delhi-based woman who underwent third surgery for abdominal pain in Mumbai and doctors found a gauze mop that was left inside her stomach from the previous surgery.

The complainant Kamla Devi, after getting discharged from the hospital, filed a complaint in the state panel against the doctors in Delhi who operated on her the first two times in November and December 1995. Reportedly, she was being treated by Dr R K Jain and Dr S Mehta and the former had suggested the surgery.

The first time she was admitted in the hospital in November 1995 was for abdominal pain and vomiting. On the basis of her doctor’s advice, she underwent a surgery but her pain didn’t get better so she was re-admitted and operated upon again.

Even after this, when her pain persisted, another surgery was reportedly suggested by Dr Jain. On relatives’ advice, she came to Mumbai for the surgery where the gauze was discovered in her abdomen.

The doctors at first denied the allegations. Their arguments were rejected by the state panel after which they appealed to the national commission. Here they argued the ‘negligence’ did not pose a threat to the woman’s health and life so it cannot be amounted as medical negligence. That is when the national commission observed negligence doesn’t have to amount to death or pose a risk to health and asked the doctors responsible to compensate the women by paying Rs 50,000.

The judgement was passed 17 years after her first operation.

Rarely a month goes by without some or the other doctor being accused of medical negligence by the patient or kin of the patient. The degree of negligence and its repercussions can vary from person to person but that does not mean a doctor is not liable for the negligence and shouldn’t be punished for it. But, many doctors think otherwise as was apparent in the case of Kamla Devi.

MOTHER DIES DUE TO POST-OP COMPLICATIONS

It is only when a patient dies or something seriously goes wrong with the patient’s health that doctors are held guilty for negligence. Sadly, even at times when the doctors are proclaimed guilty, it takes way too long for the punishment to actually be delivered. Dr Nikita Manchanda, who delivered a baby boy through C-Section on 3rd May 2009 in Max Hospital, Delhi, died after two days owing to a complication.

A day after her delivery, she complained of severe abdominal pain and began to vomit continuously. In desperation, she called her gynaecologistDrAlka Gupta. However, even after hours of writhing in pain her calls went unanswered. Nikita was administered pain-killers by the resident doctor at the hospital after consultation with Dr Gupta and the anaesthetist. The doctor did not find it necessary to examine Nikita even though the pain-killer did nothing to alleviate her condition.

The next morning, on realising that her condition wasn’t improving, the doctor rushed Nikita to the ICU. It took a full three hours to shift Nikita to the ICU and arrange for blood. Nikita was declared dead by noon.

Reportedly, Nikita’s father had filed more than 50 RTIs to the police department, the health department of India, Medical Council of India and Delhi Medical Council.

And, it was in 2010 that the reply to his RTI application to Medical Council of India revealed that Max hospital had enough evidence to prove the four doctors were guilty of medical negligence and their quantum of punishment would be revealed in ‘next meeting.’

That the doctors were guilty was decided by the ethics committee in June 2010. More than a year passed and there was no sign of the ‘next meeting’ in which the punishment of the guilty was to be decided even when Manchanda filed an RTI application asking about the case.

It was only in May 2012, when Manchanda filed a second appeal to the ex-Central Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi that Gandhi directed the PIO of the MCI to provide details of quantum of punishment awarded to the doctors and also put it up on its website along with other doctors found guilty since January 2011.

PATIENT TURNED AWAY, DELIVERS ON ROAD

Around a fortnight back, Bombay HC refused to give relief to a doctor held guilty of negligence. Last year, a pregnant woman, Tabassum Sheikh had come to Bhabha Hospital and was examined by DrAtulKulkarni who then directed Tabassum to DrManorhitaGaikwad (the petitioner).

Reportedly, the doctors referred Sheikh to another centre but didn’t arrange for an ambulance for her and Tabassum delivered a baby right at the hospital gate. By the time any medical help could reach her the baby died. The BMC sacked the doctor for negligence and the HC upheld BMC’s decision.

…ANOTHER DELIVERY ON ROAD

In a similar situation, in April this year, in Hyderabad, a pregnant woman was allegedly turned away from a government-run hospital and she ended up delivering the baby on the road.

After severe protests from the locals, a probe was ordered against the hospital. Thankfully, in this case, the mother and the child survived.

Cases like these are not really rare to come by. Doctors in government hospitals turning patients away every now and then or doing a shoddy job without the fear of any sort of reprisal or exposure should be punished severely enough that it serves as a lesson for other such doctors who take issues of medical negligence lightly.

Not just in government hospitals, doctors in private hospitals too should have empathy towards patients, fear the law and not take issues of health lightly as is usually the case.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)

  • Written by Denis Giles
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The Challenged, Orphans At Higher Risk In Shelters!

By Gajanan Khergamker

It has been a while since Mumbai’s Panvel orphanage horror tales made headlines. The 19 physically and mentally challenged girls, who reportedly suffered abuse at the hands of the caretakers and other employees of KalyaniMahila and BalSevaSanstha, a shelter home in Panvel, deposed in front of the court one by one.

It may have been a shock to see people who are supposed to take care of these children indulging into such a heinous act but this is not the first time such a crime has happened in a shelter home in India.

MENTALLY UNSTABLE CHILDREN ABUSED

Around the time, the Panvel shelter home incident came to light, an almost similar incident was reported in the Home for Mentally Deficient Children in Mankhurd. Here, unlike in the Panvel shelter home, the children were reportedly abused by older inmates of the home.

Though the Mankhurd shelter home was meant for children only, there were only 22 boys under 18 years of age at the time these incidents was reported. The rest of the inmates were adult which included some as old as 60, who stayed back at the shelter as they didn’t have anywhere else to go after they came of age.

RTI REVEALED HOME ‘UNINHABITABLE’

And, if these stories are not enough, there is evidence of thedeplorable conditions in which children live in various shelter homes all over India.

An RTI query filed by BachpanBachaoAndolan revealed over 1,800 children fled various shelter homes in Delhi over the past few years. The data related to the period from 2006 to 2010.

The information provided by the Women and Child Development Department of the Delhi government related to 26 shelter homes, both statutory and non-statutory.

Reportedly, the query revealed that 10,600 children residing in the 26 shelter homes over four years of which as many as 1,807 children escaped because the condition of the shelter homes was ‘uninhabitable.’

During the four years, 29 children had died out which 28 were from the same shelter home. It was reported that 807 children had escaped from a single non-government organisation - Prayas.

According to the Andolan which filed the RTI, Delhi has 37 state-run and 17 non-government shelters as well as observation homes for homeless children with a total capacity of 3,000. Reportedly, there are more than 10,000 children who live on Delhi’s streets. These children who are mostly picked up from the streets or rescued from employees are brought to these shelter homes so that they get a normal childhood. Instead, they are put up in these shelter homes where their condition is such that they run away from there not out of choice but for lack of it.

Back in Mumbai, the conditions aren’t any better when it comes to shelter homes. When a couple of cases of child abuse in shelter homes surfaced around a year back, the High Court appointed an apex committee as amicus curiae to look into the functioning of various shelter homes for mentally-challenged children in Maharashtra and the conditions of their inmates. The committee, led by DrAshaBajpayee, TISS faculty, submitted its report in July 2011 and the revelations were shocking to say the least.

Only 20 of the 35 districts in Maharashtra have homes for mentally-ill children. And, the report indicated the basis on which these shelter homes were opened were ‘suspicious’.

MOTIVE OF SHELTER HOMES ‘DUBIOUS’

The report said that “When a home is sanctioned in any district, a cut has to be paid to the Directorate of Women andChild Development (DWCD) officer and also to Child Welfare Committee members in the district.” It also questioned “the mushrooming of homes” over the past two year. “This is done for political considerations and it is not in the interest of children,” the report suggested.

According to the study, three homes had been shut down following revelations of sexual abuse, malnutrition and death of children owing to carelessness of the officials. Allegations of financial irregularities too had surfaced.

It also mentioned that none of the staff at any of the homes was even aware of signs of child sexual abuse. The report also alleged that children are transferred from one home to another ‘like cattle’ without the knowledge of CWC members which is a contravention of the rules.

And, if any child is seriously ill or there is a probability of his/ her death, s/he is transferred as no one wants to deal with death, the report said.

PAEDOPHILE BRITS RUNNING HOME ACCUSED, CONVICTED

Sometime back, two British nationals, Alan Waters and Duncan Grant, were arrested and convicted for sexually abusing boys at Anchorage Shelter Home for street children they ran in Colaba.  Although the first case of children abuse by these Britons surfaced in 2001, it took years for them to be convicted for their crime. The duo were first found guilty in 2006 but were later acquitted by the High Court in 2008.

However, their acquittal was revoked by Supreme Court in 2011 after which they were sent to jail where they completed their sentence and deported to UK the same year.

...AND THE ABUSE SAGA CONTINUES UNABATED

The latest case of child abuse in a shelter home came up in Rohtak, Haryana.

It was reported that around 100 inmates of the government-aided shelter home, ApnaGhar, which is in the Chief Minister’s constituency, alleged gang rape and abuse by government official and police officers. It was alleged that women were forced into prostitution and pregnant women were being tortured to induce abortion.

Jaswanti Devi, who runs the shelter, was arrested along with three relatives. There are allegations of her being given ‘special treatment’ so that she doesn’t reveal the names of officials involved in the barbarous act.

This horrid tale came out when two women inmates escaped from the shelter home in May last and narrated the stories to the National Commission for Child Rights after which a PIL was filed.

Most of these incidences surface after years of abuse the shelter home inmates go through and there is no guaranteeing how many such “shelter homes” actually serve the purpose and are not just an ‘official’ cover for abusing helpless children and women.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Insensitive Tattle On Sensitive Crimes Will Spark Public Outrage

By Gajanan Khergamker

“We have all read the fable of a shepherd and tiger, the way media is cooking up rape stories, it would be difficult to believe even a genuine rape case,” is what Mamata Banerjee had said with regard to the spurt in rape cases in West Bengal. She claimed the media was to be blamed for the ‘rise’ in number of rape cases in her state. While it was, on the face of things, a political attempt to save face by placing the blame squarely on the media for its coverage, the slack in enforcement and failure on its part to protect women in the state is evident from official figures.

The National Crime Records Bureau figures indicate West Bengal, along with Andhra Pradesh, had registered record high rates of crime against women in 2011. According to the report, West Bengal accounted for nearly 12.7 per cent of total crime against women by reporting 29,133 cases. Also, of the 24,206 rape cases reported all over India, West Bengal registered a total of 2,363 rape cases in 2011, coming second to Madhya Pradesh which recorded a total of 3,406 rape cases.

So, when the CM charged the media with fabricating rape cases to such an extent the state is having a hard time sifting out ‘genuine’ rape cases from the lot of fake, she really needs to look at the  state’s ‘official’ dismal performance in the regard before making such comments.

When a state head, and a woman herself, talks loosely about a crime as heinous as rape by saying that representatives of the media with vested interest were paying women to file fake rape cases, it only dissuades the affected from coming forward and filing complaints for fear of it not being taken seriously.

After all, not every woman is as strong as P. Vasanthi who reportedly refused to buckle under pressure and ensured that her complaint mets its logical end. Tamil Nadu’s Theni District-based victim P. Vasanthi claims she was picked up along with her three-year-old son, from a bus stop by a policeman in the night and taken to a police station only to be assaulted and raped in front of her child.

That her complaints to the authorities went unheeded didn’t dissuade Vasanthi who dashed off a letter to DGP, National Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Right Commission.

Incidentally, she approached an NGO which helped her petition her case before Madras High Court. The NGO also helped her retrieve evidence of police brutality from the records of the prison medical officer and the Trichy government hospital through RTI applications.

It was revealed the doctors had attended to Vasanthi and recorded she bore multiple injuries, especially from her waist down to the legs. Also, the doctors, reportedly, found her face was swollen and left ear hurt on arrival.

Theni’s SP Praveen Kumar reportedly said he didn’t know about the RTI application but said they didn’t register her FIR because her complaint was baseless. The matter is still in court and is awaiting justice.

It isn’t for the first time that police officials in authority have been charged with misusing power to molest, assault or rape women. There have been convictions on the count, across states, as well.

So, when a politician like Mamata Banerjee makes public statements about women filing fake rape cases, it only lends an air of incredulity to the charge of rape itself and almost exonerates sexually-deviant officials who would continue to misuse authority.

A little earlier, Anna Hazare’s team member KiranBedi found herself in the news for a similar faux pas. She had, allegedly, said the media was not giving enough importance to serious issues of corruption but were giving coverage to “small rape” cases.

The retired lady IPS officer was flayed widely in the media for making light of an issue as grave as rape speaking volumes about much safety of women is given importance.

Apart from India, politicians across the world are known to make disparaging comments about women. Just a few days back, an US Republican was reported to have said ‘derogatory’ comment against rape which caused uproar in the US.

US Republican Todd Akin said “From what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy resulting from rape is) really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, you know, I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”

Mamata Banerjee who seemed to have made a habit of claiming all rape cases in her city are fake had reportedly asked the media to see the ‘positive’ side of rape stories. She made this remark while speaking to the media following the rape of a Mumbai-based woman in a park. She claims that the “rape and murder” stories have been cooked up to “malign the government.”

So, from blaming women for enticing men into rape them, trying to figure if the rape was ‘legitimate’ or not, dismissing rape as a petty offence to stating women had made a ‘habit’ of filing fake rape cases and taking money for the same, sadly, seems to have become a favourite line for politicians and officials alike. A few years back, in Mumbai, when an inebriated More raped a teenager at a crowded Marine Drive police booth, it vindicated popular fears of a sexually-depraved lot on the loose and in the police force.

When a two-year-old girl is raped by her neighbour, would you blame her for ‘enticing’ him? Or absolve a father for raping his daughter to ‘satisfy’ his demands who says it’s the daughter’s duty to fulfil his needs?

(Readers keen on seeking help on draftingRTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)

 

  • Written by Denis Giles
  • Hits: 2739