The government has relaxed service rules to post a 43-year-old IAS officer diagnosed with cancer in New York so she has access to clinical trials of advanced drugs in the US.
Clinical trials are a hit-or-miss option, often requiring long hospital stays, but many terminally-ill patients give them a shot after the existing line of treatment fails.
Mamta, a Jharkhand-cadre officer posted in Ranchi as additional secretary in the institutional finance and programme implementation department, has been recommended for the post of education consul, a human resource development ministry position, in New York.
The officer said she would volunteer for clinical trials of laboratory-stage medicines at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York because she is not responding well to treatment at Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital in Mumbai.
In her new role, Mamta will have to promote closer educational collaboration between the two countries — a task that officials in the HRD ministry say demands frequent travel between New York and Washington.
“I have been suffering from the disease for the past four years and the treatment until now has not worked,” she said without specifying the nature of the cancer.
Questions are being raised if she would be able to do justice to her posting because clinical trials entail long periods of hospitalisation. “Clinical trial is a time-consuming process and requires a patient to be admitted to hospital for long periods. How can you expect her to work to discharge her duties efficiently?” an officer asked.
Since IAS officers are eligible for treatment abroad on government expense, Mamta could have done that without blocking an important position, he said.
The department of personnel and training (DoPT) said in a letter to the HRD ministry her condition has deteriorated steadily and conventional therapies have not worked.
“She has been advised to stay in New York to undergo clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. She has strong willpower and she will continue to discharge her duties effectively despite her illness,” states the letter dated December 5.
The civil services board has cleared her New York assignment, sending the recommendation to the appointment committee of cabinet for approval. A couple of mandatory qualifications have been put aside to facilitate her relocation — a two-year deputation at the centre and blocking the position by not announcing the vacancy so that other officers couldn’t apply.
The New York hospital, said to be the world’s oldest and largest private cancer centre, conducts clinical trial to evaluate the safety and preliminary effectiveness of new anti-cancer drugs in patients.