And now, furious buck-passing between agencies involved

After battling a callous system and severe malnourishment, the 43-day-old baby of Purnima, who had given birth to him in a park in Basaveshwaranagar on April 22 and died soon after, breathed his last at Vani Vilas Hospital here on Monday.

Doctors at the hospital, where he was treated at the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 17 days since his birth, said that the baby was “severely malnourished” when he was re-admitted to the hospital on June 2.

“He died of severe malnutrition, acute gastroenteritis and sepsis,” said hospital Medical Superintendent Some Gowda.

The baby was in the “temporary custody” of the father, Mohan Kumar. According to Child Welfare Committee (CWC) member Vishalakshi C.S., the custody claim was still pending and he had been handed over for 15 days to Mohan Kumar on May 29, prior to which he was at the Shishu Mandir run by the Department of Women and Child Welfare Department for 20 days.

Contentious claim

The father's custody claim had been a contentious one as he had abandoned his pregnant wife and three older children.

“We were to review the case after 15 days and the father had not reported on the child's health,” Ms. Vishalakshi said. She added that the father, who had been “forceful and rude”, had insisted that he could not be denied the natural rights.

The body was handed over to him without a post-mortem. Mohan Kumar would be produced before the CWC for hearing on Tuesday.

Dr. Some Gowda said that the baby was brought in a bad shape. “Not only was he malnourished but he also had acute gastroenteritis and sepsis. We found that there was loss of subcutaneous fat and the baby was very lethargic because of acute dehydration,” he said.

He said that the baby was administered intravenous fluids and higher antibiotics. “He died at 6 a.m. on Monday,” he added.

Why there was no post-mortem, he said that it was not a medico-legal case as the baby was brought by the father and not by the police.

'Hush-hush' manner

Sources in the hospital said that the authorities at the Shishu Mandir, under whose custody the baby was till May 29, had handed him over to the father in a “hush-hush” manner.

“Malnourishment cannot happen overnight. The baby was ill for some time at the Shishu Mandir and the paediatrician there did not bother to consult experts when his condition did not improve. Instead he was handed over to the father who kept him for four days before bringing him to the Vani Vilas Hospital,” the sources said.

Counter-claim

However, Ms. Vishalakshi said the child was in good condition when he left the Shishu Mandir.

CWC had handed over the baby only after an undertaking by the father and his older sister that he would be taken good care of.

“We weighed the baby and did a health check-up. He was in good health at that point,” she said.

CWC member Anupama Hegde said: “The Shishu Mandir would have reported the case to us if he had been unwell and taken him to the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health. In any case, we will investigate the case on Tuesday.”

She added that the CWC had also asked the hospital to conduct a post-mortem, which was not followed.