Thursday, February 05, 2009


Today's edition of the Hindustan Times carries the following extremely sad story:
Abandoned in Life and Death
Parents leave baby boy undergoing treatment at PGI

In a blatant display of extreme callousness, parents of a seriously injured baby abandoned the child midway through treatment in the PGI Intensive Care Unit.

Faced with absence of support in a critical condition, the infant breathed his last on January 7 and no one has even come forward to claim the body, which is kept in the mortuary of the hospital.


Although he started stabilising in the ICU, his parents suddenly vanished. After unsuccessful attempts at locating the parents, doctors informed the police.


Ruby passed away on January 7.
1. It is simplistic to call the parents callous. Who knows what their compulsions must have been? Maybe the treatment was too expensive, maybe they were depressed.

2. This once again confirms my impression that even in the best Indian hospitals, a relative or guardian is as much part of the nursing staff as the doctors and nurses. When I was taking care of my ailing grandfather in a posh nursing home, his IV drip drained out a litre of his blood (which collected under his arm) before the nurses came and chided me, the attendant, for not noticing that the IV solution had long since finished and that I should have called them. Fortunately there were no major complications then.

The key phrase in the news item above is "in the absence of support in a critical condition". The parents deserted, yes, but how was their presence essential to the infant's support who was uner treatment in an ICU? Was it because the doctors and nurses refused to treat an infant who couldn't pay (sic)? This was a government hospital after all, was there no way the infant could have been provided for? Was there no NGO, no one who had some extra money?

3. Is it reasonable for a doctor to let a patient die if his blood relatives (seemingly) have no interest in saving him? If it is an infant? If it is an adult? If it is a terminally ill old person?

It is not that doctors in India are extraordinarily burdened with work and they cannot be expected to be "good" as well. During internship in the United States, and in the shifts of public hospitals in the West, doctors go through as much of a grueling schedule as anywhere else.

4. The religiously-inclined might say that the child must have come to this world with his karma and that divine justice is infallible. And thus we avert our eyes from what must have compelled the parents of this poor child to desert him, and what must be improved in the hospitals, and in the mind-sets of doctors of this country for these events never to happen again. God forbid.


Vineet said...

Hi Harman,

I am trying to imagine what went through your mind when the nurse chided you for not calling her. It is nice to know that no complications ensued.

I would have been outraged, but that hardly solves anything. Is it even worth the attempt to engage in a conversation with the aim of ensuring that the problem does not occur again when people tend to get on to defensive all the time?

I have been following your writings on and off for sometime now and I appreciate them a lot.


Di said...

"his IV drip drained out a litre of his blood"....has happened to me also in USA hospitals...wasn't a litre though. Only those who are in for service attitude should go into medicine field....not to make money....ahhh....utopia.