Though a forensic report of the gastric lavage taken from Indrani Mukherjea has ruled out drug overdose, the urine sample tested at a private hospital shows high levels of Benzodiazepine, a known anti-anxiety drug, with doctors indicating that the levels indicated she may have consumed at least 20 tablets.
However, Maharashtra Home Department officials said that in such medico-legal cases, the government relied on the state-authorised Kalina forensic laboratory, and it would have to crosscheck why the urine sample report obtained from the private hospital had shown such a high level of the drug.
Ms. Mukherjea, accused of killing her 24-year-old daughter Sheena Bora in 2012 and then destroying the evidence, continued to remain “critical, but stable” in the critical care unit of Sir JJ Hospital.
Describing her as “stuporous”, doctors said she was in deep sleep, but responding to “deep stimuli and sometimes oral commands.” T.P. Lahane, Dean of the hospital, said that normally in drug overdose cases, patients continued to be in danger for 72 hours, and the next 48 hours will be critical for her.
Two samples cause confusion
The probe ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also handles the Home portfolio, commenced on Saturday with a preliminary inquiry showing that Ms Mukherjea was prescribed anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medicines by a JJ Hospital psychiatrist on September 11, and the dosage was to last till September 26.
However, on Friday morning, she woke up at 5 a.m., had a bath and complained of dizziness at the Byculla women’s jail where she was lodged. Two doctors from Sir JJ Hospital and two jail doctors were summoned to treat her, but when her condition deteriorated, the jail authorities decided to admit her to Sir JJ Hospital around 2.30 p.m. Dr. Lahane said she was brought in an unconscious state.
From Saturday morning, her condition showed improvement and Dr. Lahane said she was in a semi-conscious state.
“Her respiratory depression is continuing, it is 12 per min. Her blood pressure is 110/70mm. Her pulse is between 73 and 80. Her PCo2 (carbo-dioxide) is normal now. She is maintained on two litre oxygen per hour. Her condition is still critical but stable. Senior consultants are monitoring her,” Dr. Lahane said on Saturday evening.
“Choline esterage is indicating no opium poisoning. She was prescribed Mirtzapine 7.5 mg OD and Tab Etizolam 0.5 mg HS which is a very minimal dose. The report of gastric lavage from the forensic lab is negative for drugs. Report of urine analysis just received from Hinduja Hospital shows Benzodiz (Benzodiazepine) position is 2088 compared to the normal (level) of 200,” Dr. Lahane said, adding that the urine sample indicated a case of drug overdose.
Asked what 10 times higher level of Benzodiazepine in urine indicated, a senior private doctor told The Hindu: “It indicates that the person consumed no fewer than 20 tablets, which cannot kill you, but it can put you in a state of deep sleep,” the cardio thoracic surgeon said, requesting anonymity.
Another doctor said: “It is possible that drug traces are not found in gastric lavage if it is taken six-eight hours after the patient has consumed the drugs as the body can absorb the drug. But the urine sample shows it is clearly a case of drug overdose.”