Rajat Sharma

Murder FIR against Doctor: Policemen must face abetment to suicide charge

rajat-sirThe unfortunate suicide of a lady gynaecologist Dr Archana Sharma in Dausa, Rajasthan, has not only shocked the medical fraternity but also all right-thinking people who believe in humanistic approach. The emotional suicide note that Dr Archana Sharma left behind can move anybody to tears.

On Wednesday, I spoke to several senior doctors. They not only expressed sadness but also anger over how a doctor had to go to the extreme and hang herself after she faced threats and intimidation following the death of a pregnant patient, Asha Bairwa, during childbirth.

Let me explain the case in details. The pregnant woman Asha Bairwa was brought to Anand hospital, Lalsot, Dausa, in a critical condition after two other hospitals declined to treat her. Dr Archana Sharma tried her best to ensure that Asha could give birth to the child, and she did, but in the process, she started bleeding excessively. It was a case of postpartum haemorrhage. Dr Archana Sharma had earlier arranged the birth of twins for Asha through Caesarean section. This time, the newborn survived but Asha succumbed due to excessive bleeding.

The patient’s husband Laluram Bairwa, a labourer, and her relatives first took the body to their village, but under pressure from local political leaders, they came back with the body and staged a demonstration outside the hospital, demanding the doctor’s arrest. In her defence, Dr Archana Sharma explained to police officers about the line of treatment, and showed them the medical file. But as the protest intensified, police, on the basis of the husband’s complaint, registered an FIR against the doctor couple under Section 302 (murder). Later, Laluram Bairwa said that somebody had given him a written complaint, which he had signed in a fit of anger, without reading it.

Dr Archana Sharma was a gold medallist and a gynaecologist of repute. She was a mother of two, but after the FIR with murder charge was filed against her, she lost all hopes.

The suicide note that she left behind speaks volumes about the mental turmoil that a doctor had to go through. In her suicide note, she wrote: “I love my husband and children very much. Please do not harass my husband and children after my death. I did not commit any mistake and did not kill anyone. My death will prove my innocence. PPH (postpartum haemorrhage) is a severe complication. DON’T HARASS INNOCENT DOCTORS, please. Suneet, I love you, don’t let my kids feel the absence of their mother”.

Dr Archana Sharma and her husband Dr Suneet Upadhyay, were running Anand hospital. Speaking to India TV, Dr Suneet Upadhyay questioned how police could fire a murder FIR against any doctor. He said, a doctor can be charged of medical negligence, but not murder. He said, the Supreme Court had already given a ruling that no doctors can be charged of murder if a patient dies during treatment.

After Dr Archana Sharma committed suicide, doctors across Rajasthan under the aegis of Indian Medical Association, went to the streets, and gave a 24-hour bandh call demanding arrest of those guilty for Dr Archana Sharma’s suicide. The Federation of Resident Doctors Associations (FORDA) in a letter to Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot demanded a full probe into the circumstances that led to the filing of FIR and the doctor’s suicide.

On Wednesday, doctors in AIIMS and all other major hospitals in India worked wearing black band on their arms. Doctors said, whatever happened to Dr Archana Sharma is a black blot on the face of society. They said, doctors save the lives of thousands of people daily, but they cannot be charged of murder if a patient dies during treatment.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted: “The incident of Dr Archana Sharma’s suicide in Dausa is very sad. We give the status of God to all doctors. Every doctors tries his best to save the life of patients. It is not justified to accuse the doctor when any unfortunate incident occurs. If doctors will be intimidated like this, then how will they be able to work with confidence? The entire matter is being investigated seriously and those guilty will not be spared.”

The chief minister directed the divisional commissioner Dinesh Kumar Yadav to carry out an administrative inquiry and take action against those abetted the suicide. The SP of Dausa Anil Kumar has been transferred and the SHO of Lalsot police station Ankesh Kumar has been suspended. Gehlot has set up a committee of senior officials headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to give necessary suggestions on preventing recurrence of such incidents. A local BJP leader Jitendra Gothwal and another person Ram Manohar have been arrested on charge of abetment of suicide.

The death of Dr Archana Sharma could be a case of suicide, but I would like to term it as a deliberate murder of a doctor. This is a big blow to the hearts and minds of every capable doctor in India. Two years ago, during Covid crisis, the Modi government had enacted a law which made attacks on doctors and healthcare personnel, their property and their working premises, as cognizable and non-bailable offences. Any act of violence against doctors and healthcare personnel shall be punished with imprisonment from three months to five years, and a fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh. If the attackers cause grievous hurt, they can be jailed from six months to seven years with fine ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.

The Supreme Court has clearly said that a doctor cannot be declared a murderer. It is alright but if a patient dies during treatment, what should we expect? Should a doctor continue treating patients or go to courts to fight cases? In Dr Archana’s case, if the police had arrested her on murder charge, should we expect her husband to go to courts seeking bail for her, and after getting bail, fight the cases for several years in court, to prove her innocence?

Dr Archana Sharma did not commit any crime, yet there were people who were trying to prove that she was guilty. She was being labelled as a murderer. Her mental agony shows that she was innocent and a good human being at heart, who tried her best to save her patient. The saddest part is that she had to take her own life to prove her innocence. The death of Dr Archana Sharma is a blot on the face of our society and our system of governance. Her family must get justice. Those policemen who filed murder charge FIR against her must be charged for abetment to suicide.

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