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Delhi HC Directs Indraprastha Apollo to Admit Acid Attack Survivor

Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo Hospital had turned away the acid attack survivor, despite her ill-health.

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5 min read
22-year-old Ruman (L) sitting with her mother. Activist Shaheen Malik (R) an acid attack survivor has raised questions on Indraprastha Apollo’s conduct.
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On 11 September, 2019, the Delhi High Court directed Indraprastha Apollo to admit the acid attack survivor, whom the hospital had turned away a week ago.

According to the survivor’s lawyer Aman Khan “Whether the hospital decides not to admit her (survivor) or discharges her by saying that no further treatment is needed, in both such instances, the Indraprastha Apollo has to submit a status report before the court on Friday (13 September).”

Earlier, The Quint had reported about the ordeal of the survivor, who was turned away the hospital on technical grounds.

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When 22-year-old Ruman, an acid attack survivor, was taken to the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi’s Sarita Vihar on 4 September, her condition was ‘critical’. Doctors at the government-run GTB Hospital had told Ruman’s parents that her chances of survival were low.

The survivor’s family belongs to Bulandshahr in UP. The Quint has taken due consent of Ruman’s father and is therefore, using the survivor’s real name.

Ruman was made to drink acid forcefully by her mother-in-law in March. She has undergone multiple surgeries since then, and was admitted to the GTB Hospital.

Since her condition was deteriorating, Ruman’s family decided to approach the private hospital for further treatment.

'No Need for Surgery': Indraprastha Apollo's Doctors

Ruman’s family is now alleging that a panel of doctors at the Indraprastha Apollo told them to take their daughter away as "there is no need of surgery" and prescribed few medicines.

The family also claims that the doctors at the Indraprastha Apollo ‘tried to evade’ Ruman’s admission to the hospital.

At the age of 22, Ruman weighs only 22 kg and can’t walk on her own. Her father, Hashimuddin Safi, has to carry Ruman in his lap.

Ruman can’t talk as her entire food pipe and vocal cords have been damaged due to the intake of acid.

A part of her intestines has been operated upon surgically for administering fluid, as a substitute of food, from outside.

At the age of 22, Ruman, an acid attack victim weighs only 22 kg and can’t walk on her own.
At the age of 22, Ruman, an acid attack victim weighs only 22 kg and can’t walk on her own.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

In the prescription dated 4 September, the concerned doctor at the Indraprastha Apollo made a note about ‘acid ingestion 6-7 months back’ but also mentioned that ‘there has been no recent trauma’.

When The Quint approached the hospital's authorities, we were told that the patient is ‘very weak’ and ‘there is no need for immediate admission.’

“Adequate treatment was given to the patient. The family was informed that they can come to the OPD next week.”
Official Spokesperson, Indraprastha Apollo
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Acid Attack Victims Granted Free Treatment

On 5 September, the reporter met Ruman and her parents after their visit to another private hospital for a second opinion.

When Ruman’s parents visited the other hospital, they were told to pay Rs 25,000 for a staying period of ten days, after which the doctor will perform surgery for the reconstruction of the food pipe.

As per the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the Laxmi vs Union of India in 2015, all private and government hospitals are supposed to administer treatment to acid attack victims free of cost.

Ruman’s father, Hashimuddin Safi, sitting with his daughter’s medical file.
Ruman’s father, Hashimuddin Safi, sitting with his daughter’s medical file.
(Photo: Akanksha Kumar/ The Quint)

The FIR filed in Ruman’s case initially didn’t include Section 326A of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) that prescribes punishment for up to 10 years for causing permanent or partial damage by throwing /administering acid.

However, when Ruman’s father approached the court in May, Section 326A was added to the FIR, thus, making her eligible for benefits assured by the government for acid attack victims.

While the Indraprastha Apollo hospital decided to turn away Ruman on technical grounds of ‘being weak’, another private hospital did agree for surgery once they were assured that the survivor’s family may cough up the money for the operation.

Private Hospitals Interested in Making Money: Activist

Shaheen Malik, an acid attack survivor who handles such cases at the HRLN (Human Rights Law Network), was accompanying Ruman’s family when they had gone to the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

Malik told The Quint that despite pus oozing out of the survivor’s wounds in the abdomen area, the doctors at the Indraprastha Apollo made no effort to clean or bandage them.

“The hospital authorities were not willing to talk to us. From 12 in the afternoon till 6 in the evening, the survivor was made to sit which was the most difficult part as she was weak.”
Shaheen Malik, Activist, HRLN

Shaheen, who was attacked with acid while she was working as a counsellor in Haryana in 2009, feels that private hospitals often resort to such tactics in order to shun the responsibility of treating acid attack victims free of cost.

“The moment they (hospital authorities) realise that they can make Rs 30 lakh from a patient, it poses a problem to acid attack victims who are seeking free treatment.”
Shaheen Malik, Activist, HRLN

In February 2019, the Supreme Court had admitted a PIL demanding a look at the implementation of the guidelines regarding acid attack survivors again. "Private hospitals do not entertain acid attack survivors even after there are laws", the petition had claimed.

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'Just Want to Save My Daughter': Survivor’s Father

Even as Shaheen is preparing to approach the court soon, in which Apollo will be made party, Ruman’s father looks distraught as fears about his daughter’s deteriorating health loom large.

“They (hospital authorities) just saw us and turned us away. All I’m thinking right now is that my daughter should be saved somehow.”
Hashimuddin Safi, Ruman’s Father

Recalling the bitter experience they had at the GTB Hospital, Hashimuddin had approached the private hospitals in Delhi thinking that they would be different from the others. He felt that Ruman was not getting due attention at the GTB Hospital.

“Doctors have a callous attitude there (GTB Hospital). You have to request doctors to come and see a patient who is already suffering so much.”
Hashimuddin Safi, Ruman’s Father

A labourer by profession, Hashimuddin can’t afford treatment at a private hospital and the reluctance of Indraprastha Apollo has reduced the chances of Ruman’s recovery for now.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Published: 
Edited By :Anjali Hans
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