The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rampage over death certificate

Siliguri, April 9: Relatives of a deceased woman ransacked a private nursing home here today, after they were denied a death certificate when she was brought dead there.

Sudama Devi Gupta, a 62-year-old resident of Church Road suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma, was taken to Mitra Nursing Home on Saturday but was reportedly refused admission after her relatives refused to pay Rs 5,000 as advance.

The Gupta family then took Sudama Devi home. This morning, when her condition deteriorated, she was again brought to the same nursing home in Hakimpara.

“She had been suffering from respiratory problems over the past few days,” Sudama Devi’s son Sanjiv Gupta said. “C.P. Sharma, a practitioner at the nursing home, had examined her on Saturday and had suggested that she should be admitted immediately. The staff there, however, demanded Rs 5,000 as advance payment.”

“It was an emergency and I repeatedly urged them to admit her, reassuring them that the money would be paid within an hour. But they refused point blank. So we went back,” he added.

Sudama Devi died while she was being brought to the nursing home this morning.

When they found her lying motionless on reaching the clinic, her family members called the doctors, who examined her and declared her dead. This infuriated the relatives and they demanded a death certificate from the nursing home.

When they were refused, the family members went on the rampage. The crowd ransacked the reception, broke windowpanes and glass doors and hurled abuses at the authority.

K.C. Mitra, the 75-year-old owner of the nursing home and a veteran doctor of the town, tried to intervene. “But they refused to listen to me though I repeatedly requested them to calm down while I tried to sort out the issue. No money was demanded in advance as they have complained,” he said.

Officials from Siliguri police station reached the spot to bring the situation under control. The protesters, however, stood firm over their demand for a death certificate.

“To ease tension, police officials requested me to issue a death certificate. As I had also seen the patient a couple of days ago and was aware of her ailments, I wrote the certificate,” Sharma said today.

Asked why he did not take his mother to a different nursing home and what prompted the two-day-delay, Gupta refused to answer.

Mitra’s daughter Shyamashri Mitra who is also a doctor at the nursing home has lodged a complaint with the police against the ransacking and assault.

“There were at least 50 patients in different wards, their relatives, doctors and other staff members at the nursing home when they ransacked it,” Mitra said.

Medical practitioners here have condemned the incident. “There is hardly any justification behind such ransacking. It appears that the patient died due to the negligence of her relatives,” said Samar Deb, the newly-elected president of the Indian Medical Association’s Darjeeling district branch.

“Their demand for a death certificate is also baseless. Unless the doctor is a family physician or had been treating the patient before his/her death, he cannot issue such a certificate,” he added.

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