Treatment of gang rape victim criticised

Wed, Jan 9, 2013, 00:00

The decision to fly the victim of a gang rape that outraged India for treatment in Singapore made little medical sense as the woman was so severely injured that her death was all but inevitable, doctors say.

The Indian government, on the back foot after furious street protests and stinging criticism of authorities over the December 16th rape in the capital, New Delhi, has struggled to defend its decision to send the 23-year-old physiotherapy student overseas. She died 48 hours later.

Three of the five men accused of her abduction, gang rape on a bus and murder will plead not guilty to all charges against them, their lawyer told the BBC. Manohar Lal Sharma said Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur and Ram Singh should get a fair trial.

A sixth suspect, who is thought to be 17, will be tried separately in a youth court if it is confirmed he is a minor.

Mr Sharma said he would file a representation letter on behalf of his clients tomorrow.

Fair trial

“I believe the accused should get a fair trial and I have come forward to represent them,” he said yesterday, adding that he planned to challenge the police over their handling of the evidence linking the accused to the case.

Outside of the trial, from which the media and non-family members of the victim are excluded, medical experts have begun criticising the way she was treated.

With a deadly infection seeping into her blood from damage done to her intestines during the assault, complicated by a cardiac arrest and damage to the brain, she was just clinging to life when she was flown 4,000km (2,500 miles) from New Delhi to Singapore late on December 26th, doctors said.

“It was ethically and morally wrong to have taken her out, given that she was sinking and her chances of survival were next to zero at that stage,” said a doctor at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences. “Such a thing raises false hopes in the minds of the family, the community. No doctor in his right mind would do this, unless you want to get the patient off your back.”

Doctors warned

The doctor, who declined to be identified, added that colleagues who had spoken out had been warned of consequences in what has become a politically explosive case.

Another doctor who was consulted during the woman’s care at New Delhi’s Safdarjang hospital, where she was taken following the assault, said she had been getting the best possible treatment in India and the question of why she was shifted should be answered by the government.

Security officials have said they feared the protests would escalate if the woman had died in New Delhi, but the government has said the only consideration was her wellbeing.

“The idea was to give her the best possible treatment,” said Harish Rawat, a minister who attended a cabinet meeting on the woman’s condition and the efforts to save her.

“I don’t think the idea was to run away from the problem. Death here or death abroad would still have the same impact,” he said. “We felt if there was a chance to save her, it should be tried. Take her to a transplant facility abroad.” – (Reuters)