He has lost his son to AIDS and lives in fear of losing his wife to the same disease. Distraught, a Burdwan-based businessman has approached Calcutta High Court with allegations that a state-run hospital did not check the boy’s blood for HIV before transfusing it into his mother.
The complaint, heard out in court on Monday, prompted Justice Pranab Kumar Chatterjee to issue a directive to the government to launch a high-level probe by an official not below the rank of deputy director of health services or a hospital superintendent.
“The report, finding out whether there was any lapse on the part of the hospital and the person guilty for that, must be on my table by September 15,” stated the order, issued to the state director of health services.
Gopali Ghosh, of Ara village, in Burdwan’s Bhatar, was admitted to Burdwan Medical College and Hospital in July 2000 for a surgery to remove gall-bladder stones. Doctors recommended that her sons, Paran Chandra Ghosh and Parimal Ghosh, give blood that she might need during or after the surgery.
The operation was successfully conducted on July 15 and Gopali returned home. But a few days later, she started feeling unwell. To make matters worse, Paran, too, developed similar symptoms. Paran was admitted to a nursing home where doctors ran an Elisa test. A similar test was run on his mother, in the virology department of the School of Tropical Medicine. The test reports, announced on March 1, 2001, confirmed the family’s worst fears — both mother and son had AIDS.
Paran died a few days later, on March 9. As news of the son’s death and the mother’s ill-health spread, neighbours started steering clear of the family. As a result, the family business of making and selling curd suffered.
Gopali’s husband, Sukumar, then wrote to the chief minister’s office, demanding compensation from the government for his family’s predicament. With no response from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s office, Sukumar decided to move court.
Government pleader Rabilal Maitra on Monday produced a report from Burdwan Medical College and Hospital, stating that the mandatory Elisa screening had been done on Paran’s blood, but there was no trace of the HIV then. Justice Chatterjee, however, felt only an independent probe would unravel the truth behind this tragic tale.