Hearing of Apollo Doctors Adjourned to 11 Feb by Jaya Probe Panel
Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission adjourned the hearing of the 10 doctors and a technician from Apollo Hospitals.
The Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission adjourned the hearing of the 10 doctors and a technician from Apollo Hospitals in the Jayalalithaa death probe to 11 February. They had been called for re-examination by Sasikala’s counsel on 5 and 6 February.
“O Panneerselvam was supposed to appear on 29 January 2019, but he (judge) decided to adjourn the proceedings, saying Apollo Hospital had gone to the high court and filed an application. So now we said the status remains, so you postpone the appearance of the doctors,” said the legal counsel representing Apollo Hospital.
Meanwhile, the date to issue summons to deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has still not been finalised, an official at the commission told The Quint.
“Apollo Hospital had told the Commission to go ahead with enquiring the non-medical witnesses, but the judge didn't agree to that. The commission is saying they will not serve summons now to OPS because the budget session will now begin,” said the counsel representing Sasikala.
The commission has rejected the demand by the counsel representing Apollo Hospitals to constitute a medical board.
On 25 September 2017, the Tamil Nadu government set up an inquiry commission headed by a retired high court judge to probe AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa's death. This was a result of various claims made by the O Panneerselvam faction, Edappadi Palaniswami faction and a state minister who had claimed the party leaders had lied about her health condition.
Justice (Retd) Arumugasamy has been heading the inquiry into the circumstances leading to Jayalalithaa’s death on 5 December 2016 after 75 days of treatment at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai.
The tenure of the commission ends on 24 February 2019 and the commission claims it is in its final stages of completion.
So, why have these doctors been summoned again? What are the allegations raised by the counsels representing the various parties of the case? What has the commission got to say regarding these allegations?
The Quint spoke to the various participants in this case and here is what they had to say.
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Why Have These Doctors Been Summoned Again?
Sasikala’s counsel Raja Senthoor Pandian has called for a re-examination of these doctors, reason being, “Some of these doctors had treated Jayalalithaa at Poes Garden. But while recording statements, they had not mentioned this at all. Even we had not paid attention to this detail and missed it in some oversight.”
Dr V L Arul Selvan, Dr Ravichandran, Dr Rama Gopalakrishnan, Dr Sajjan K Hegde and Dr Meenakshi Sundaram and technician Kamesh have been summoned on 5 February. Dr Babu Manohar, Dr Sivagnana Sundaram, Dr Ramakrishnan, Dr T Sundar and Dr K Madhan Kumar have been summoned on 6 February.
“Three months back when Dr Sivakumar was recalled by the commission, that’s when he mentioned that some of these doctors had come to Poes Garden. So we were alerted of this fact and so I had filed a recall petition,” he added.
He clarified that only five or six of these doctors had previously treated Jayalalithaa before her hospitalisation on 22 September 2016.
Is Apollo Hospital’s Request to Have Doctors in the Commission Justified?
Apollo Hospital had filed an application on 28 December 2018 and had sought a medical board consisting of almost 21 varying branches of doctors – specialists in critical care, cardiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon with experience in ECMO, CPR, diabetologist, pulmonologist, interventional specialising in ARDS, ENT specialist, urologist, radiologist to name a few – both from Apollo Hospital, AIIMS Hospital and also doctors from across the world.
Apollo had also stated the inability of the commission to comprehend medical terminology used by its doctors, which has led to the erroneous recording of testimonies.
“First of all, the commission is not equipped with any kind of infrastructure, nor with expertise to go into such complex questions of the illnesses the Chief Minister suffered from. She had an exceptionally complicated case with 21 specialists taking care of her. She had 40 doctors from India and across the world,” said the counsel representing Apollo Hospital.
“So if you look at our treatment summary which is out there in public domain, a lay man – including judges and even I as Apollo’s counsel – will not be able to understand. I found it a challenge to understand 31 volumes, nearly 10,000 pages. It is not about the legal argument but the lack of understanding of medical science.”Counsel representing Apollo Hospital
“The Commission has mistakenly typed words such as "Intubation" as “Incubation”, “Enterococcus” bacteria as “Endocarditis” and several such words mistakenly and those mistakes have been pointed out by the doctors as well,” read the application.
Apollo also insisted that all the medical records including recording of echos, X-Ray pictures, printouts of ECGs, biochemistry and microbiology reports filed during the course of examination of witnesses have to be scrutinised only by competent persons.
The commission rejected the application on 22 January 2019, stating it “is intended to stall further proceedings of the commission which has almost reached the final stage.”
The Arumughaswamy Commission also pointed out that a team of four doctors and other specialists from the Madras Medical College were appointed who scrutinised the records like echo, X-rays, ECG, scans of Jayalalithaa and have been relieved from deputation after the verification.
Regarding the errors in the records, the commission said that these mistakes could have been corrected any time by those who were testifying.
Meanwhile, Sasikala’s counsel Raja Senthoor Pandian opined that Apollo’s application is justified.
“There is nothing wrong about Apollo Hospitals asking for a medical board to be constituted. It is justified...but how can they ask for a board after so many witnesses have already been examined?”Raja Senthoor Pandian, Sasikala’s counsel
“In my opinion, we should get a team of doctors to look at the primary evidence, the depositions recorded so far, recorded statements and see if they all correlate,” he added.
Why Is OPS Missing from the Picture?
An official close to Sasikala stated that the only pending inquiry is of O Panneerselvam.
“When Sasikala’s counsel demanded that OPS be questioned and when Apollo has stated that they have no objection...when everyone has given consent, why isn’t the commission sending summons to O Panneerselvam? And because he is missing from here is the reason why there is a lot of confusion,” he said.
“I believe the commission should’ve first enquired the Health Secretary Radhakrishnan, next the coordinating minister Vijayabhaskar, and third, OPS and only then the commission should’ve continued with probing others. Look at how much of people’s tax money has been wasted,” he added.
“In fact, OPS had alleged that a select few had poisoned her, so shouldn’t we call him for an enquiry to probe on what basis he is saying all this?”Official close to Sasikala
An official of the commission has responded to this saying they still haven’t taken a call on whether to summon O Panneerselvam.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing Apollo Hospitals has said that the commission had initially summoned OPS on 29 January 2019, but much to their surprise, the proceedings were adjourned by the commission itself and his name wasn’t included in the next summons.
'Commission Has an Agenda’
A source close to Sasikala had stated that the failure to call upon O Pannerselvam raises doubts on whether the commission has a hidden agenda.
“The commission has been constituted for reasons more political and Apollo doesn’t have a role in this,” said another source.
The counsel representing Apollo Hospital stated that the “Commission is not equivalent to a consumer court, they don’t have the same powers. The mandate was for Arumughaswamy to finish it in 90 days and it is unimaginable.”
“He has kept extending and gone into areas which are completely out of his reach. He has gone into idol theft, Kodanad murder case...how is all this relevant to Jayalalithaa’s treatment?”Counsel representing Apollo Hospital
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