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Rebirth for Aruna, say joyous Mumbai hospital staff

Mumbai, March 7, (IANS):

Mumbai's KEM Hospital erupted with joy on Monday morning as the Supreme Court rejected a petition seeking the mercy killing of nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who has been lying there in a coma for 37 years after a brutal sexual assault by a hospital sweeper. They said they were happy to take care of her.

Her colleagues, the nursing staff who have looked after Aruna with dedication since she lapsed into coma after being raped by a wardboy Nov 27, 1973, distributed sweets and cut a cake to celebrate what they termed the "rebirth" of the celebrity patient.

"We have to tend to her just like a small child at home. She only keeps aging like any of us, does not create any problems for us. We take turns looking after her and we love to care for her. How can anybody think of taking her life," asked a senior nurse soon after the ruling.

Hospital staffers, many of whom were seen exchanging chocolates and hugging each other with joy, said they always felt happy to care for Aruna and are thrilled by the Supreme Court's ruling.


However, while the Supreme Court has rejected mercy killing for Aruna, it said: "Passive euthanasia is permisible under certain conditions with the approval of the (concerned) high court. The high court will make the declaration after taking the opinion of three doctors and issuing notice to the state and the immediate relatives of the person sought to be put under passive euthanasia." 

Active euthanasia is a state where a patient is given a lethal injection to put him to sleep, while passive euthanasia involves withdrawing life support systems from a patient.

Hospital staffers criticized the petitioner, Pinki Virani, an author and journalist, and alleged she was only interested in "making money" out of Aruna's plight.

"We all nurses are ready to contribute one rupee for a fund to aid Pinki, we hope it will make her happy," a senior nurse told mediapersons sarcastically.

Hailing from Haldipur town of Shimoga in Karnataka, Aruna was a junior nurse, planning to get married to a medico in the hospital when her career and dreams were shattered by the attacker, Sohanlal Bhartha Valmiki, working as a wardboy in the same hospital.

He sneaked into the nurses' changing room and attacked Aruna, catching her unawares as she was changing after her shift got over. He first strangulated her with a dog chain and then sodomised her.

These acts resulted in loss of oxygen supply to Aruna's brain, leading to brain stem injury, damaging her cervical cord and leaving her blind. The assault left her bleeding from the anus for several days after the incident.

Though police lodged a case of robbery, assault and attempted murder, they did not record rape as the anal rape was concealed by the hospital authorities, ostensibly to save her impending marriage with the medico, Sandeep Sardesai. Sohanlal went to jail for seven years but now his whereabouts are not known.

Since the day of the attack, Aruna has remained in coma without any change in her medical condition, even as Pinki Virani worte a book on her plight, "Aruna's Story" and Vinay Apte and Duttakumar Desai penned a drama "Katha Arunachi."


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