Rape of nurse: Hospitals cannot escape blame
The National Commission for Women has severely indicted both the Shanti Mukand Hospital and the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital for negligence in the handling of the case of the raped nurse but whether any action will eventually be taken remains to be seen.india Updated: Oct 18, 2003 12:01 IST
The National Commission for Women has severely indicted both the Shanti Mukand Hospital and the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital for negligence in the handling of the case of the raped nurse but whether any action will eventually be taken remains to be seen.
When the 19-year-old nurse was raped and brutally assaulted by an employee of the Shanti Mukand Hospital, it was like a flashback to the Aruna Shanbaug case at KEM Hospital, Mumbai, which had hit the headlines in the seventies. Aruna, a young nurse engaged to a doctor working in the same hospital, had finished a busy day’s work — there had been several cases of food poisoning from a municipal school — and was returning to her hostel. The rapist, also an employee of the hospital, was waiting for her and attacked her as she entered her room. He had used a dog’s chain to choke Aruna that resulted in the cutting of the blood supply to her head, leaving her in a coma.
Aruna continues to live in the prison of her body even 26 years after the incident while her rapist — who was charged only with robbery — served sentence and is living free. It is, in fact, believed that he is in Delhi, working as a ward boy in one of the many hospitals here under an assumed name.
In this case, if Bhura, the alleged rapist, is unable to find a clever lawyer, he may be sentenced for rape. But it is the nurse who will have to live with the scars of the incident for the rest of her life. Apart from rape, she has to cope with her disability, which will be a constant reminder of the rape.
It is heartening to see that several organizations and individuals have come to help her and offer her encouragement. In monetary terms, she has received an ex-gratia amount from Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Pratidhi, an NGO working for victims of crime and as a rape crisis intervention center, has also raised some money for her. The wife of Tourism and Culture minister Jagmohan has also sent Rs 10,000 for her. The Malyalee Association has also come out as a voice for her.
In fact, had it not been for support from her community, the NCW report notes, it is possible that she may not even have received any medical care. After the rape, even as she lay bleeding, Shanti Mukand hospital authorities did little more than first aid. Extremely anxious to wash their hands off the case, they just bundled her off to GTB hospital for the medico-legal examination. Even at GTB, little attention was paid to her eye. She was made to walk between floors several times, going from one doctor to another before she was just sent off home. When her neighbours saw her condition, they brought her back to Shanti Mukand hospital. The hospital authorities still refused to admit her and it was only after there was a big demonstration outside that she was taken in. The crime had taken place in their premises, the accused is an employee of theirs, the least they could do — purely on humanitarian grounds — was to offer her proper medical care. Far from it, t hey demanded Rs 7,000 from the nurse’s family by the end of the day.
The NCW has rightly recommended that action be taken against Shanti Mukand hospital. The Commission has, in fact, demanded that the licence of the nursing home be revoked. But whether that happens or not will depend on the findings of the enquiry ordered into the incident by the Delhi Government.
For once, here is a case where the police cannot be faulted. They managed to arrest the suspect within 24 hours of the case being reported. But apart from the depravity of the individual who committed the crime, this incident has shown up the medical fraternity in extremely poor light. If Shanti Mukand hospital is to blame for trying to wash its hands off the affair, GTB hospital, by not even trying to involve an ophthalmologist in a case where the victim’s eye has been gouged out, comes across as even more callous. If private hospitals are in the game only for money, then government hospitals seem to have lost all humanity.
If the NCW recommendations are accepted and exemplary action is taken, then perhaps in the future, doctors will look at cases as more than just patients. The nurse, who has lost her eye, was someone’s only daughter. She was the sole earning member of the family. She was also a member of the medical fraternity. A little more humanity and compassion in handling her case could have gone a long way in taking away some of her pain.