Eleven-month-old Lokman Hakim, whose unusual obesity earned him the sobriquet of 'wonder baby', died after he choked while being fed on Sunday.
Food particles blocked the baby's air passage, cutting off oxygen supply, while his mother was feeding him mashed rice in the paediatric ward of the state-run SSKM Hospital, to which he was admitted four days ago.
'The news of Lokman's death has disturbed us. We were planning to carry out several investigations,' said P.K. Chandra, head of paediatrics department, SSKM Hospital. 'We believe his death occurred when a portion of food got stuck in the respiratory tract. We will have to investigate the circumstances under which he died.'
'Many people had warned me that they (the doctors) would turn him into a guinea pig, but we did not listen to them,' cried Gyanera Bibi, Lokman's mother. 'I was not forcibly feeding him, as the doctors have suggested. If I was doing anything wrong, they did not stop me either,' she added.
Born into a farm labourer's family at Domkal village, in Murshidabad, about 240 km from Calcutta, Lokman had been in the news over the past few weeks because of his unusual obesity.
The media attention had prompted several parents of such overweight children to come forward to claim their 15 minutes of fame. The government had shown interest in the baby and the SSKM authorities had him admitted to carry out chromosomal studies and scans.
Around 2.30 pm, Lokman, who was being fed mashed rice by his mother ' five litres of milk and 1.5 kg of rice pulp made up the staple diet of the 21-kg baby ' developed breathing difficulties. He slumped to the bed and went into convulsions.
Doctors and nurses came rushing and had the baby removed to the intensive care unit, where they tried unsuccessfully to remove the morsel and revive him. Lokman was declared dead around 5.50 pm.
When the death news was disclosed to them, Lokman's parents broke into tears.
'We have many such overweight babies in our area, but no one has any problem. Like most of them, my son, too, was a big eater. That was all. The doctors forced me to admit Lokman here for some tests, but ended up taking his life. We never thought our baby would die while eating,' wept father Abdul Latif.
Two weeks ago, the couple had brought the baby to the hospital for a check-up. Hospital superintendent Santanu Tripathi said: 'We are seeking legal opinion to find out whether a post-mortem can be avoided and a bronchoscopy or an X-ray can be conducted instead, before the body is handed over to the family.'