Husband of dead patient kills doctor

A 55-year old lady anaesthetist, T. Sethulakshmi, was murdered by an armed autorickshaw driver in Tuticorin on Monday night after his pregnant wife, who was admitted to the hospital reportedly in a ‘serious condition', died before she could be taken to a private hospital.

According to Superintendent of Police J. Rajendran, Mahesh (27), the auto driver, entered T. Sethulakshmi's room in her private hospital at Third Mile where she was examining a patient around 10 p.m. on Monday. He attacked the doctor with a sword and fled the scene. Nine cut injuries were found on the body.

Mahesh was from Aavudaiyaarpuram in Tuticorin and executed the crime with the assistance of three friends. The police have secured all four of them. The arrested were: R. Mahesh (27), V. Gurumurthy (27), I. Abbas (25) and N. Raja (20). They were arrested under Sections 452 (Trespass), 302 (Murder) and 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt) of IPC. Mahesh was a history sheeter and three cases of murder, attempt to murder and causing injuries to people had been filed against him during 2006, Mr. Rajendran said.

On December 30, Mahesh had brought his wife Nithya (24) who was 24 weeks pregnant in a relatively “serious condition” to the Employees State Insurance Corporation Hospital on Beach Road, where Dr. Sethulakshmi served as anaesthetist and medical officer. The doctor found that Nithya's 6-month-old foetus had died in the womb and suggested immediate surgery to remove the dead foetus and save the life of the mother.

Even as the surgery was going on, Nithya reportedly developed HELLP syndrome (Hemolytic anaemia, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count), a life-threatening obstetric complication that usually occurs during the later stages of pregnancy. All vital parameters started going down alarmingly. In a bid to save the woman, Dr. Sethulakshmi took her in an ambulance to a well-equipped private hospital near Tuticorin South police station, but Nitya reportedly died en route.

“Even amid their grief, the patient's relatives had thanked Dr. Sethulakshmi for having taken extraordinary efforts to save Nithya and for having accompanied her even as she was being taken to another hospital in the ambulance,” claimed T. Nanthakumar, president of the Indian Medical Association's Tuticorin chapter.

State-wide strike

Doctors in Tamil Nadu have come together in solidarity to protest the gruesome murder of Dr. Sethulakshmi.

The Tamil Nadu Government Doctors' Association (TNGDA) has announced a strike by all doctors in the government and private sectors in the State beginning 7-30 a.m. on Wednesday. “This scalpel-and-stethoscope-down strike is only a form of protest. We will ensure that all emergency surgeries and life-saving procedures will go on,” K.Senthil, State president, TNGDA, said.

The problem, he added, was that such incidents of violence against hospitals and hospital staff had been increasing steadily over the years. “Almost every month we hear of one such case happening in the State. This, despite the fact that there is a law, Hospital Protection Act No. 48 with severe penal provisions for offenders. The punishment can be imprisonment between three and 10 years. Only, there is a very poor conviction rate, and neither hospitals/doctors nor the police are aware about such an Act.”

On Thursday, a day's strike has been called by the Indian Medical Association- Tamil Nadu State Branch (IMA-TNSB), again with only emergency services intact. “Casualties/deaths are inevitable in the medical profession. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the hospital and doctors, patients die because of various causes,” said J.A.Jayalal, secretary, IMA TNSB. Brutal murders are not a solution to anything, he added.

T.N. Ravisankar, National secretary, College of General Practitioners, said, “Patients or their relatives cannot take law into their own hands. There are certain things that are beyond the control of doctors. Patients' survival depends on a number of factors, and is not entirely in our hands. This murder was committed by an emotional husband grieving for his wife, though the doctor had done her best.” In all cases of suspected medical negligence, a full enquiry must be conducted to find if the doctor's lapse really cause death or disability, he added.

The IMA-TNSB has also sent a petition to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, urging the State government to declare hospitals as ‘protected zones' and enhance police protection and vigil in these areas. They have also called for strict implementation of the Act.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 11:29:39 PM |

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