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Girl flown to Singapore

New Delhi, Dec. 26: The Delhi gang rape victim was flown to a Singapore hospital in an air ambulance late tonight, prompting at least one doctor not involved in her treatment to refer to the difficulties in “practising rational medicine under intense pressure”.

“The girl has been shifted to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore as it has a multi-organ transplant facility. It is state of the art,” said Safdarjung Hospital medical superintendent B.D. Athani.

Dr Yatin Gupta, the head of the critical care unit (CCU) at Safdarjung Hospital, a team of other doctors and her parents are accompanying the 23-year-old paramedical student.

She was shifted from the Delhi hospital in a Medanta Medicity ambulance. The private chartered air ambulance belonging to ARE Airways, which is equipped with ICU facilities, took off around 11.45pm.

The ground ambulance was followed by a police escort and a vehicle carrying the girl’s parents. A decoy ambulance was also in place.

Sources said the decision to shift the girl to Singapore was taken at the highest level. Athani said that based on the advice of a team of doctors, the government made arrangements for the patient to be shifted.

Cardio-thoracic surgeon Naresh Trehan had a meeting with her team of doctors, after which she was declared fit to fly, the sources said.

Doctors not associated with the victim’s treatment said they were surprised at the suggestion that she was being moved to a Singapore hospital because it had superior facilities for organ transplants.

Daily medical bulletins issued by Safdarjung Hospital over the past week suggested that she had developed infection and life-threatening sepsis that has not been responding to antibiotics.

The girl lost her small intestine and is a candidate for a small intestinal transplant, if she survives her complications from sepsis.

“But, for now, the entire focus should be on controlling infection and providing supportive therapy,” said Subash Gupta, a senior gastrointestinal surgeon in New Delhi, who has no connection with her treatment but has participated in intestine transplants.

“An intestinal transplant is not an emergency operation required now,” he said.

Most government-run and private tertiary care hospitals in India, including Safdarjung Hospital, are expected to have facilities to provide supportive care to patients with sepsis.

“The only reason (for the shift) I can think of is that the doctors who’ve been treating her are under tremendous pressure, enormous visibility and possibly receiving unsolicited advice on how best to treat her... it’s sometimes difficult to practise rational medicine under intense pressure,” Gupta said.

“They’ve done a very good job trying to help her,” he said. “Perhaps the move to Singapore is an attempt to give her the best possible care in a neutral environment.”

Safdarjung’s Athani said the treatment in Singapore could take several weeks. He suggested Singapore was chosen as it was closer from India — less than six hours by air — than destinations in the West.

Official sources said the government would bear the expenses of the girl’s treatment.

Official sources said passports and Singapore visas for the girl and her accompanying relatives were speeded up by the external affairs ministry. The sources said the Indian high commission in Singapore has been asked by the Centre to render all assistance to the family.

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke to experts at home and abroad before zeroing in on Singapore.

Senior doctors at Safdarjung Hospital, where the girl was under treatment since December 16, today cancelled two medical bulletins scheduled at 4.30pm and 6.30pm.