A Murderer’s Family That Almost Killed Us
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The whole city awaited a murder, just like in the book ‘Chronicles of a death foretold’ by Mr. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It was during my internship. I was posted in the civil hospital casualty along with Dr. Anwar and Dr. Junaid, my batchmates. The postings were phenomenal in that we got “Hands-On” experience on a variety of Medical Emergencies.
As a result of a professional rivalry between two big families, one head was shot down point-blank in cold blood on a busy street. The brother of the dead had sworn that he will kill the killer soon. It was just a question of time. We heard the progress in hushed tones during night-tea with wardboys and ambulance drivers.
One night we had our customary 2 AM tea on the street opposite the hospital, and were just re-entering the casualty when there were panicked screams outside, and a whole lot of people barged in, asking for doctor on duty. Dr. Anwar said that the medical officer was in his room, and asked about the patient.
The patient was the victim’s brother, the infamous one who had sworn to kill the murderer. He had developed vomitings and diarrhea, and had become unconscious. He also heavily smelt of alcohol. The medical officer on duty came over, a skin specialist. He examined the patient, ordered medical tests including blood alcohol levels and the analysis of aspirate from the tube inserted in the patient’s stomach. Writing the treatment plan, he told us to carry it on, and left to retire.
I looked for a good vein to start the IV fluids. Dr. Junaid recorded the pulse and BP, both a little out of range but acceptable. Got the vein. . Gave him the advised medicines. The patient was stable.
Dr. Anwar started to write the police information note. We must inform all medicolegal cases immediately to the police in hospital campus, by law. Dr. Junaid whispered to me: some relatives smelt of probably Marijuana.
We were in a cubicle, the dressing room besides inpatient casualty, made of Government-grade cheap plywood, with a wooden table and metal chair, patient bed, IV stand, and an elementary dressing cart. It had only one door, now blocked by atleast 20 relatives, all shouting angrily about why the patient was still unconscious. ‘If something happens to him you will not survive’, some of them kept on repeating. They were headed by an extremely aggressive and big lady, who said she was patient’s sister. We told her he was stable and expected to improve.
“Why isn’t he conscious yet?” she asked angrily.
We started getting anxious.
The security guards were meekly standing behind the crowd. They were both government servants, and this crowd was above them, government, and even law, in that moment.
The telephone rang. It was the hospital’s ambulance driver, our night-tea partner, calling from a ward. He said in hurried and anxious voice “Sir, they are not good people. Leave that room. I will keep the ambulance ready outside if you want to come out. Don’t argue with them:” he said.
“We cannot” I said. The relatives were right there. “We need some IV fluids” I told him.
“Yes, sir” he got it.
Dr. Anwar handed over the police information sheet to a wardboy waiting out, through the crowd.
The patient’s sister snatched it from his hand. “What is this?” she asked.
“The senior Doctor asked us to file an MLC (medicolegal case) as there is suspicion of alcohol intoxication and food poisoning.. just a routine procedure” explained Dr. Anwar, carefully choosing his words but still with hesitation. It is never easy to talk to someone angry and aggressive.
Then there was a loud noise, a wet and heavy and muffled thud. She had slapped Dr. Anwar. “My brother is dying, and you want to file police case?” she caught hold of his shirt-collar, bent and lifted him with her hand between his legs, kicking him all the while. Myself and Dr. Junaid ran to her, saying, many things that meant sorry, it was just a procedure, that we were told by our senior, her brother is not dying but stable etc. etc. You know how coherent one can be in such a situation.
We were pushed back violently by two of them. “You don’t move from here till our brother is conscious” we were told, with added expletives, a hefty man held my shirt collar and violently pushed me into the wall near the patient. I smelt the burnt marijuana too. Another stout one was tugging at Dr. Junaid’s shirt, which ripped off. Gentlest among my friends, I cannot forget Dr. Junaid’s face in that moment. Slaps continued, as the incharge sister and nurses tried to shout and try to intervene, but the crowd didn’t allow them to enter the room.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The aggressive lady lifted up Dr. Anwar, and banged him on the plywood wall. It gave away, shattering also the glass within it. Dr. Anwar started shouting for help as she continued to fist and kick him with others as he lied on the floor. One relative lifted up the chair and started randomly hitting things with it: the telephone, the glass on the cubicle walls and finally aimed it at us. Five feet away from us, there stood this goon with a metal chair aimed at the two of us held to a wall by other relatives.
That moment is framed in my mind for forever. We were treating his brother, none of this was our fault, we didn’t know them at all, still, they were ready to kill us.. Not one insane person, but a whole crowd! Any legal action later on won’t matter once we die or are hurt. A doctor’s life meant nothing for those goons who had both power and money.
We begged him not to throw the chair.
He threw it with a wild gusto anyway, and as we turned away to dodge it, the chair hit us, its edges cut through Dr. Junaid’s’s ear and my arm. Pain was less of an agony than what was happening. The incharge sister outside started screaming and crying aloud.
The patient moved, and pulled out his IV line. His blood started soaking the white bed sheet. Just as I moved to get a syringe to temporarily block it (it was an open needle), someone slapped my back. “Can’t you see he is bleeding? Stop it”. Dr. Junaid reconnected the IV line with bare hands, trembling.
At this point, the Civil Surgeon entered, an old man with many political and social connections. He was accompanied by two-three police constables and the senior doctor on duty who had called them. The family knew the CS as well as the police. He pacified them, told them he will look after the patient personally, and asked them all to go to his room.
The incharge sister, a mother to all, still crying, took us to the doctor’s room, and dressed our wounds. The ambulance driver got us some coffee.
The CS never asked us if we were hurt. He kept on telling the stories of how he calmed down the crowd for ages later. He never felt responsible for what happened, nor reprimanded his “friends” for their violent behavior with his junior doctors.
The patient improved, and was discharged in three days. The whole family came to take him away again. They left without any thanks or apologies.
About a week later, our patient fulfilled what he had promised his family: He killed his brother’s murderer in open daylight, witnessed by dozens on a busy city square.
Dr. Anwar and Dr. Junaid have long left India, and are happily settled in safer countries. Twenty years down the line, I continue to read the same story almost every other day, recalling and re-living the horror.
Anyone can walk in with a crowd in any Indian Hospital and violently destroy life and property, under the pretext and excuse of being angry at anything they don’t understand or like. . A law exists now, but you know the implementation. Mandatory action against any violence/ threatening /Intimidation in any Medical Premises must be implemented, without the doctor / hospital needing to file a complaint. You know what happens to witnesses in India.
I pity the brains of those who blame doctors for “not explaining properly to the anxious relatives” thus justifying the violence and attacks. No Judge, No Govt. Officer, No police officer “explains everything “ to anyone when we go to their offices, in fact most of them treat “Junta” (everyone else / common man) as a waste. That doesn’t allow us to attack them and destroy property. This is only “softly dealt” about doctors and hospitals.
We need a concrete plan against this domestic violence mostly cultivated by those in power. Or a National Revolt against violence in Medical Premises.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande