The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospitals in suicide strangle
- 15 attempts in one month, two deaths in five days

Calcutta, Aug. 11: Cracking under the weight of acute depression after being detected with tuberculosis, a 25-year-old lady committed suicide by hanging herself in the bathroom of the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Beliaghata today.

The death of Manika Dutta, a housewife from Burdwan, is not a solitary case of suicide inside state-run hospitals. In the past month, there have been 15 attempts. Two have succeeded in taking their lives in the past five days.

Around 5.30 am, Manika left her hospital bed and locked herself inside the bathroom and hanged herself with a sari. Patients in the ward told police during interrogation that Manika, suffering from TB for the past five months, often told them that the disease was pushing her beyond the point of endurance.

She was admitted to the hospital on June 14.

Respiratory diseases expert Manish Pradhan said that though TB is curable, patients tend to develop suicidal tendencies due to acute depression. “In my career I have come across only two such deaths, but several try to kill themselves,” he said.

Four days ago, Sandhya Naskar (25), of Calcutta, committed suicide by hanging herself in the bathroom at Sambhunath Pandit Hospital.

Two months ago, an AIDS patient leapt to his death from the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, unable to put up with the social boycott.

Today, Manika’s husband, Shantinath, arrived during visiting hours to learn that his wife had killed herself.

“Shantinath told us that they had a happy conjugal life till she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Manika was said to have been convinced that she would never be cured and was in a state of depression,” the investigating officer in the case, H.S. Vishal of Beliaghata police station, said.

State hospitals have been seen to be unsafe for patients in many other ways but appear a safe enough bet for those with suicidal tendencies. Frequent suicide attempts without being spotted is only another symptom of the disease eating the health-care system.

“It is worrying. I have asked all my hospital staff to check the antecedents of all patients coming to the hospital with a tendency of committing suicide,” said Sukumar Das, the hospital superintendent of Sambhunath Pandit Hospital.

Expressing similar thoughts, K.K. Adhikari, his counterpart in Medical College and Hospital, said the answer is to keep patients under 24-hour watch. “But in reality it is very difficult to check this as a lady patient wearing a sari can slip into the bathroom and hang herself.”

It would seem that for a person to organise all this should take some time. Obviously, long absence from the ward is going unnoticed.

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