The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Needle swings to killer painkiller

The state-run Medical College and Hospital, pushed into a corner following the death of an employee’s son who had been administered a pain-killing injection on Tuesday, has blamed it on the ampoule bought by the boy’s relatives from a chemist’s outside the hospital.

Medical College principal Jayashree Ghosh made it clear on Wednesday that 11-year-old Shiv Kumar Ram (son of pathology department staffer Biswanath Ram) had been administered the same injection — diclofenac sodium (available under popular brand names like Voveran) — the day before, without a hitch.

But on Tuesday morning, the boy, suffering from a sprain in the leg, died 30 minutes after being administered the injection. This had sparked trouble, with Biswanath’s colleagues going on the rampage, heckling and abusing doctors and ransacking the emergency outpatients’ ward.

The government has formed a three-member committee, led by principal Ghosh, to inquire into the death of the boy. Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said a report would be submitted to him within 10 days, before which the cause of death could not be ascertained.

The police, too, have started a suo motu investigation into Tuesday’s violence, that will “automatically” look into the circumstances leading to the boy’s death, say officials. Preliminary investigations were leading sleuths to believe that the injection pushed into the boy’s vein was “spurious”, they added.

Shiv’s body has been sent for post-mortem. “We can’t say anything concrete about the cause of death before the report is ready,” stated Ghosh.

The boy, who had suffered a sprain in his leg and was admitted to the emergency ward on Monday after he complained of “severe pain”, died on Tuesday evening, within half an hour of being administered a pain-killing injection.

“I had gone to buy the ampoule,” relative Vijay Kumar Ram said, recounting Tuesday’s events. “Shiv was given the injection around 4.30 pm and died at 5.05 pm,” Vijay added, hinting that something went wrong with the needle-push.

Ghosh, however, ruled this out, adding that Shiv had also been administered another “very common” sleep-inducing drug. “He had been given both a day earlier and he was not allergic to any of them,” she added.

Other senior physicians, however, said Shiv could have died after fat cells (from the ruptured skin) entered the blood stream. “Many deaths in orthopaedic cases are caused by these fat cells blocking the artery,” one of them explained.

Ghosh made it clear that no action would be taken against any medical or Group-D staff, either for the boy’s death or for the vandalism. No Medical College staff appeared guilty for the Class V student’s death, and what a section of the group-D staff had done in the emergency ward was “basically an emotional outburst”, said Ghosh, explaining why the administration was not going to take any punitive action.

The handling of the case appeared to have had one positive fallout — the ceasework called separately by junior doctors and group-D staff was withdrawn on Wednesday morning. Earlier, Ghosh had met hospital superintendent Kusum Kumar Adhikari and heads of all the departments to tackle the situation. Agitating junior doctors demanded more security in the emergency wards and complained of the lack of infrastructure.

Ghosh assured them both matters would be addressed.

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