8 months on, fashion designer seeks justice for her younger sister’s death
Dipika Panchal, who is now left with her younger sister’s only child, has been doing rounds of the Goregaon police station, the offices of the joint commissioner of police (crime), and the commissioner of police, trying to find the cause of Amita Panchal’s death
MUMBAI: For over eight months, a fashion designer has been trying to seek justice for her sister’s death, who she claims, died due to negligence of the doctors of a Goregaon-based hospital associated with Lifeline Hospital and Pristyn Care, a start-up that offers elective surgeries.
Dipika Panchal, who is now left with her younger sister’s only child, has been doing rounds of the Goregaon police station, the offices of the joint commissioner of police (crime), and the commissioner of police, trying to find the cause of Amita Panchal’s death. With no forensic analysis report or even the post-mortem report, Dipika is clueless about how and due to whose negligence Amita died.
“I have carried Amita on my shoulder my entire childhood due to her crutches,” said Dipika. Even though Anita’s mobility was restricted due to polio, her strength was immense, she said. Working as a bank employee and a single mother, Amita learnt to live life with her head held high and she never broke down.
“She wanted company, for which she took the bold step of going through an IVF procedure and donor sperm to conceive her son, who is now four years old and motherless,” said Dipika, a Mira Road resident.
Amita Panchal had health issues associated with obesity and, in May 2023, consulted a doctor through Pristyn Care, a Sequoia- and Tiger Global-backed start-up that offers elective surgeries. A Pristyn Care sales executive first contacted Amita on May 11, 2023; with details of the procedure, she would eventually undergo—insertion of an intragastric balloon made by US-based Allurion Technologies. The next day, the same sales executive sent her a doctor’s prescription on WhatsApp, which contained a recommendation by Dr Nelson V Junghare, a young general surgeon, proctologist, and laparoscopic surgeon, that she go for bariatric therapy.
The Body Mass Index of the patient, as noted in the prescription, was the minimum mandated by India’s insurance regulator for such a procedure to be covered by insurance. The treatment, which costs a little less than ₹4 lakh, involves the patient swallowing a pill, which inflates into a balloon once inside the stomach. This limits the amount of food a person can eat and forces a calorie deficit, resulting in weight loss.
On 20 May, Amita was admitted to Lifeline Hospital in Goregaon to undergo this procedure.
However, half an hour later, she felt pain and unease, started vomiting, and began asking the doctors to remove the capsule from her stomach. When the pain and discomfort did not subside even after two days, Dipika requested the doctors to remove the balloon from her sister’s stomach.
However, two more days passed before the surgery to remove the balloon was done on the evening of May 24, but hours later – on the morning of 25 May, Amita died. Her body was then sent to Siddharth Hospital for post-mortem.
Dipika said that she suspected medical negligence as even after a message from the doctor, the balloon was not extracted from her stomach. “I went to the police station and all their superiors, but till now, nothing has been done,” she said.
“I just want the matter to be investigated. Three senior police inspectors have been transferred in the time frame, but none have paid heed to my complaint,” added Dipika, who has also initiated the procedure of being the legal guardian to Amita’s son, who is currently in Gujarat with Dipika’s mother.
When HT contacted the senior police inspector of Goregaon police station, Dilip Bhosale, he said he was unaware of the case. “I will call Dipika and understand the complaint,” said Bhosale.
At the time of the autopsy at Siddharth Hospital, police sub-inspector Tanaji Kolte, who signed the documents, said he was first assigned the case, but later it was transferred to another officer.
Dipika said that police officers were just buying time and making no effort to investigate the case and making excuses that the forensic analysis of Anita’s viscera was awaited. “I haven’t even got to see the postmortem report of Amita. It has been hidden from me for eight months, and it is not possible that the report has not been forwarded to the police,” said Dipika.
Despite repeated attempts, Pristyn Care was unavailable for comment.