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Two years and still no verdict

SUDIPTO MONDAL
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Husband seeks justice for dead wife and unborn child

The tragedy's significance for women:The couple in happier times
The tragedy's significance for women:The couple in happier times

It has been two years since Kapali Patne and her unborn child died on the operation table of a private nursing home. Ms. Patne was allegedly dropped from a height of at least four feet in the operation theatre.

In its charge-sheet, the CID has held the doctors responsible for negligence. Not only that, the investigation also found that the doctors allowed the foetus to suffocate and die in an attempt to cover their tracks. While the criminal prosecution has proceeded at a brisk pace, the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC) and even the Medical Council of India (MCI) have shown an alarming reluctance to deliver a verdict in the case. This, despite the fact that the Indian Medical Council Act stipulates that all inquiries into negligence cases must be disposed of in six months.

On International Women's Day, Ms. Patne's husband Parikshit Dalal approached The Hindu seeking to highlight her case, and its implications.

Excerpts:

Q: Kapali Patne's death was a ‘one-in-a-million' case. Why do you think the case should be seen in the context of International Women's Day?

A: Although it is a rare case, it poses serious questions about the safety of women during childbirth. As far as the facts are concerned, it's an open and shut case and the punishment should have been exemplary. This would have acted as a lesson to the entire medical fraternity while dealing with pregnancy cases.

But how would a speedy trial by the KMC and the MCI help women at large?

What happened to Kapali was a crime against a woman. And just like in dowry death or sexual harassment cases, the punishment should have set a precedent. Most importantly, because one of the doctors is not even a registered practitioner and another doctor's licence expired in 1995.

But sexual harassment and dowry death cases are far more widespread….

So are cases of medical negligence, particularly when it comes to pregnant women. Such is the level of commercialisation in the medical field that women are treated like commodities.

Today many urban, educated, working women conceive late.

But because of the professional success that they have already achieved, they are willing to pay much more. To cash in on this segment, doctors are paid extra commission to bring in more number of Caesarean cases. In this frenzy to make more money, maternity centres have become like baby factories. They work at such a frenetic pace that mistakes are bound to happen.

But was Kapali a victim of commercialisation of healthcare?

The CID investigations have shown that she was dropped by accident. But the things that the doctors did afterwards are what make their actions criminal.

They tried to keep her under observation at the ICU even after she was dead. They allowed the foetus to die because they did not want to answer uncomfortable questions later. Kapali's case provided the MCI and the KMC a perfect opportunity to put a brake on the rampant commercialisation of maternal healthcare.

SUDIPTO MONDAL

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