For Anil Gupta, the only doctor to speak out against fellow doctors in the Anuradha Saha death case, his testimony is fast proving to be his passport to persecution.
The specialist in medicine, who “ignored pleas and warnings from the medical lobby not to let his colleagues down”, has just been transferred from Asansol Sub-Divisional Hospital to a hospital in north Bengal.
Gupta is convinced that his transfer is the fallout of his “outspokenness” and refusal to buckle under the threat from his fraternity. “How else can I explain my transfer, when there are several other doctors working at the place of my current posting (Asansol) for the past 17 years'” he demanded on Monday.
Gupta has been in Asansol as medical officer for the past two years. He said he had expressed his misgivings in a letter to the authorities on March 10 this year, months before the final transfer order came through.
Gupta has now moved the state administrative tribunal against the order, which he alleges is “vindictive” and engineered by a pro-Left Front lobby that warned him repeatedly “not to take Kunal Saha’s side” in the legal battle that has rocked the medical fraternity and is still being fought in Calcutta High Court and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
Gupta’s involvement in the controversial case dates back to 1998, when he received an SOS from friend and NRS Medical College and Hospital classmate Kunal Saha. The message from Saha was that his wife Anuradha was not keeping well. “I rushed to their side. Anuradha was in a lot of pain. She had developed rashes all over her body,” recalled Gupta.
A few weeks later, Gupta was back at a private hospital in Calcutta, where he diagnosed Anuradha’s case as “toxic epidermal necrolysis” (a serious drug-induced reaction, popularly referred to under the acronym Ten). He was also with Saha when Anuradha was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai a few months later. After Anuradha died in May 1998, Gupta’s services were again sought by Saha — to testify in court. “Being an expert in medicine, I knew what had gone wrong and testified, despite repeated warnings from my colleagues,” said Gupta.
He also sought expert opinion on the controversial dosage of a particular drug administered to Anuradha that, allegedly, led to Ten. “The opinion I received was placed in court,” he added. “Most of my colleagues continued to warn me off Saha but I did what I thought was right,” Gupta explained.
In April 2001, after a three-year stint in a hospital in the US, Gupta rejoined the state health services wing as a physician in the medicine department of Asansol Sub-Divisional Hospital.
Then came the landmark Alipore court verdict, declaring Anuradha’s doctors guilty. And the threats soon started streaming in, followed by the abrupt transfer order, alleged Gupta.
State health services director Prabhakar Chatterjee said on Monday he would look into the matter immediately. “I have not yet been told of the transfer, but I will definitely try to find out the circumstances leading to his shift from Asansol to north Bengal,” Chatterjee added.