Experts consulted by the government before transferring the critically-ill Delhi gang rape survivor to Singapore have told The Hindu they were only asked if the patient was fit to be airlifted — not if the move was medically advisable.
“The question we were asked was whether it would be safe to move her,” said one member of the expert team, drawn from doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital and Safdarjung Hospital. “The question was not whether there were any deficiencies in treatment that would be met by moving her,” he said, adding, “She was being given the best possible care.”
Independent experts have questioned the wisdom of the government’s decision to move the 23-year-old woman from Safdarjung hospital.
“I just can’t understand why a critically ill patient with infection in blood and body, high grade fever and on the ventilator is being transferred,” said Dr. Samiran Nundy, chairman of the organ transplant and gastro-surgery department of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. “It will take weeks in this case to even look into the possibility of an intestinal transplant so why hurry and take the patient out from a facility which works so well. It seems more of a political move.”
The final decision to move the woman to Singapore came after she suffered a cardiac arrythmia — a sudden drop in her heart rate — for five minutes on Tuesday night, leading doctors at Safdarjung Hospital to call in outside experts. The last bulletin issued by the hospital on Wednesday night said she remained unable to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator, continued to battle infection, and suffered from low liver function.
Highly-placed government sources said the decision to move the patient had been discussed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday, amidst growing concerns about her medical condition.
The Singapore High Commission in New Delhi then liaised with Indian authorities to rapidly arrange documentation and admission at the Mt. Elizabeth Hospital. The Delhi High Court had earlier said that the victim, “if it is possible, should be shifted to a super-speciality hospital.”
Police sources say the woman suffered massive internal injuries to her intestinal tract, because the assailants sexually assaulted her with a rusted, L-shaped iron rod that was used to operate a jack used to change flat tyres on buses and trucks.
However, doctors speaking to The Hindu said they were unsure that moving the patient to Singapore would help in the management of her condition. “There is no question of a transplant at this stage,” said Dr. Kaushal Kant Mishra, a senior orthopaedic surgeon at Primus Hospital. “The infection has to be controlled first, and the patient stabilised. I do not understand what the hurry was to take the patient out. Safdarjung Hospital, like other major hospitals in India, have excellent medical facilities and doctors to take care of the critically-ill.”
Another senior doctor at AIIMS said: “When the Prime Minister can be treated and operated [here] what is the specific medical need to move a patient to Singapore?. What the government is saying does not seem to add up.”
Dr. M.C. Misra, head of the JPN Apex Trauma Centre at AIIMS and one of the physicians consulted on the victim’s move to Singapore, said the decision was taken since the patient “needed only the support of the ventilator for the transfer.” The decision, he said, “was ok-ed keeping in mind the best interest of the patient and as directed by the Government.”
He, however, added that an intestinal transplant right away was out of the question. “She is still very critical and the transplant surgery is a long one, lasting over three hours. We aren’t sure that the patient will be able to withstand the procedure in her current medical condition.”