Mumbai Nurse Aruna Shanbaug Dies After 42-year Coma
Aruna Shanbaug, a Mumbai nurse who was raped in 1973 by a staff member at the hospital she worked in, has died after being in a coma for 42 years. She was 68.
Ms Shanbaug was in the Intensive Care Unit of Mumbai's state-run King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital. Doctors had said a few days ago that Ms Shanbaug was suffering from pneumonia and was on ventilator support.
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She was 26 years old and a junior nurse at the hospital when Ms Shanbaug was brutally assaulted and raped by a ward boy and cleaner named Sohanlal Bharta Valmiki, who she had scolded for stealing food that was meant for stray animals adopted by the hospital.
She had just finished her shift, and was in the basement of the hospital changing before leaving for home. Her attacker had been lying in wait. He sodomised her and then strangled her with a dog chain, cutting supply of oxygen to her brain, which resulted in irreversible damage.
She was discovered in the basement 11 hours after she was attacked, blinded and paralysed and with the iron chain around her neck.
From that day on, Aruna became a resident of the hospital. So thorough was the care she got over the four decades that she was bed-ridden, that Ms Shanbaug did not get bed sores, a fact noted by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement of 2011, rejecting a petition to stop force feeding her.
''I was associated with her care for almost 10 years when I was working for KEM. Nurses would clean, feed, change her clothes, not mechanically. They would talk her... While trying to clean her mouth, by chance she would bite a finger," recalls Dr Pragna Pai, former Dean at KEM Hospital.
Aruna, she said, loved fish and mangoes.
The petition by author Pinky Virani, who wrote the book 'Aruna's Story,' to stop force-feeding her sparked a national debate on euthanasia. Former and present staff members and nurses at KEM Hospital strongly opposed it.
They were the family that Aruna had no more. As she lay in hospital without sight or memory or even the ability to move, her family abandoned her. All but an older sister, Shanta Nayak, who too could not sustain visits to the hospital as the years went by.