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Denial of treatment: Issues raised by Murugan’s death

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Denial of treatment: Issues raised by Murugan’s death
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The tragic death of a Tamil Nadu man following denial of emergency care and admission by six hospitals in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram after being seriously injured in a road mishap triggered massive protests and hullabaloo within and outside the state assembly.

Murugan from Tirunelveli was in the ambulance for nearly six hours and died on Monday morning. He was riding pillion on a bike when it collided with another two-wheeler at Kottiyam in Kollam district at 10.30 pm on Sunday. When the Opposition took advantage of the opportunity to hit back against the government and the Health Department, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the incident was extremely painful. He said that the health services director has been directed to conduct preliminary probe into the matter and that the government would take corrective measures and put in place an effective system to ensure that such incidents do not repeat in future. The Supreme Court in a significant verdict had directed that the road accident victims who were seriously wounded should be given emergency trauma care when they are taken to hospitals, without considering their background. The hapless victim was pushed to death even by the Medical College hospitals citing reasons like non-availability of ventilator facility, lack of neurosurgeons as well as absence of bystanders repudiating the Supreme Court guidelines and the basic human ethics. Just because a case has been registered against the hospitals wouldn’t bring Murugan back alive. Such incidents couldn’t even be guaranteed to not happen in future. It’s because many such similar incidents have taken place earlier. That was how the circumstances in which the Supreme Court intervened occurred. What was the outcome?

The first issue in such cases is the absence of close relatives or those responsible, accompanying the accident victims. Nobody could predict or foresee when and where the road mishaps will occur or who will be injured. Hence those reaching the site of the accident or the safety police would usually try to rush the wounded persons to the nearby hospitals in conveyance facilities available. Trauma care facilities aren’t available in all district hospitals yet; it’s a major drawback of the Health Department. The primary concern of the government should definitely be to ensure the required facilities at any cost without further delay. Lives couldn’t be saved in all the cases only because of putting into place proper amenities. There isn’t any need to remind that the next move is to rush the victims to the hospitals whether it is government-run or a private management, that provide expert treatment without any delay. This usually doesn’t happen due to the question of bearing huge expenses. The concerned hospitals should be able to ensure that the government or NGOs would bear the expenses in case nobody came forward and that there would be no negligence or delay in the matter. Even if the life of the victim couldn’t be saved, a situation where nobody comes forward fearing the expenses shouldn’t happen again. It’s the government that should take the responsibility of rushing the bodies to government hospitals, conduct postmortems and make arrangements for cremation if required. It’s not that all these factors do not exist at present. It’s surely the negligence, inefficiency and lack of responsible kin that makes matters worse.

In Kerala where there is no dearth of high profile hospitals that claim to have highly advanced treatment facilities, we couldn’t help but remind that the owners of these hospitals should see such life-saving services as an inevitable part of their charity activities. Let the private hospitals that extract huge fee without considering the financial background of patients and injured victims keep aside a portion for carrying out humanitarian activities. It is not that such circumstances doesn’t exist at present. There are definitely hospitals that fulfil their humanitarian duties.

However, during extremely cynical times of saving precious lives, the tendency to find excuses for not doing so, couldn’t be tolerated. In the present digital age, it’s difficult to believe that neurosurgeons and NGO workers in place of bystanders couldn’t be immediately made available. The public unaware of the aspects and provoked by the mishaps, turn against the doctors and hospitals. They should as well admit that it would only make matters complicated. The quality of comprehending the reality of the happenings as well as an awareness to practice patience and tolerance should be inculcated in those accompanying the patients and the accident victims. The approach of the police force is more important. The circumstances where those in charge of law and order resorting to intimidate and frame those who acts humanely during times of medical emergencies, should certainly vanish.

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