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Death by MRI: staff, hospital negligence

Human and institutional negligence caused the recent death of 32-year-old Rajesh Maru, who died after getting sucked into a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine at a hospital in Mumbai. Maru, who was accompanying a relative into the MRI room, carried an oxygen cylinder inside. An MRI machine has powerful magnets and pulls in objects containing iron into it. When Maru walked into the room, the strong magnetic force dragged him, along with the cylinder, into the machine. Apparently, the ward boy there had assured Maru that he could safely carry the oxygen cylinder in and the MRI machine was switched off. That was not the case as the ghastly events that followed reveal. A probe into the incident is necessary. Hospital staff have no business asking patients and attendants to carry hospital equipment around. But it is not enough to investigate the role of the ward boy alone. It is necessary that the probe establishes whether hospital authorities had put in place procedures to ensure that ward boys, nurses and technicians properly briefed patients and their attendants about the equipment to be used and the precautions necessary around them. Importantly, were the hospital staff themselves aware of the precautions to be taken around equipment like MRI and X-ray machines?

The health ministry must make it mandatory for private and public clinics and hospitals to display the dangers and the precautions that patients, attendants and technicians must take. Posters listing these precautions should be put up near MRI and other diagnostic machines and equipment. This isn't the first time that a tragedy involving an MRI machine has occurred. In 2014, two hospital workers were injured when they were trapped between an MRI machine and a metal oxygen tank for four hours at a hospital in New Delhi. Had authorities become more vigilant about the safe handling of MRI machines after that event and put in place strong rules in hospitals across the country, perhaps Maru would be alive today.

It isn't just hospitals and diagnostic centres that need to be more vigilant. Similar tragedies involving escalators have happened in the past. Years ago, a child was sucked into an escalator in Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport. Her mother could only look on helplessly as no one in the vicinity of the escalator knew how to stop it. It is almost 20 years since that ghastly tragedy, and yet, no escalator across India, including
that at the IGI airport, displays information on precautions to be taken to avoid an accident. How many more people need to die before authorities in public places, including hospitals, take steps to keep us safe?

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