The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Melee hurdle to body handover
- Doctors strike back against charges of not informing dead teenager’s kin on time

Parents who lost their 19-year-old son to jaundice at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital on Sunday morning had to wait for more than six hours to take him away after protests over the hospital’s “callousness” sparked trouble. Police intervention restored order in the afternoon, following which the hospital administration handed over Nikunja Das’ body to the bereaved family.

The teenager, from Shyamlal Street of the Burtola area, was brought to the hospital on Saturday evening in a “critical” condition. The doctors on duty advised “immediate” admission, but the family later alleged that the hospital employees “took their time” over the formalities. Doctors came in to see Nikunja on Sunday morning and left after ordering a blood test. By 10 am, Nikunja started sinking. He died within the next half hour.

Nikunja’s family members arrived in a state of shock, only to be greeted by some “insensitive” comments from a section of nurses and patients in the ward, Chitpur police station officers said. Narahari Das asked the doctors why the family had not been informed about his son’s condition earlier. “We had left a phone number with the hospital and could have rushed here early in the morning,” he cried.

One of the junior doctors, apparently, retorted that it was not “the doctor’s duty to call up the family of every critical patient”. This sparked a heated exchange of words, followed by a melee, in which some blows were traded between members of the bereaved family and doctors and other hospital staff. The doctors then hit the family where it hurt — they refused to hand over Nikunja’s body.

This triggered another round of trouble and the Chitpur police station outpost on the hospital campus was alerted. A force arrived around 1 pm. Written complaints were lodged by both parties against “unknown persons”, deputy commissioner (north) P. Ravi said. But the medical staff continued to refuse to hand over the body, insisting that Nikunja’s family apologise for beating up doctors.

The Das family refused. “The father had every right to ask doctors why the family was not informed of Nikunja’s condition… If a bereaved father loses his cool, can’t doctors treat him more humanely'” they asked.

At around 3 pm, the hospital authorities finally managed to convince the house-staff and post-graduate trainees to hand over the teenager’s body. “We will probe the matter on Monday,” said a senior official of the hospital.

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