Bitter pill: Indrani Mukerjea's doctor made to taste her food for poison
The Indrani Mukerjea saga just won't run out of drama. The latest? JJ Hospital, where she is admitted, is being accused of using her doctor as a guinea pig.
Here is what happened: after Indrani regained consciousness on 5 October, she was brought food. But before it was served, a Resident Medical Officer on duty was made to taste it to ensure it wasn't poisoned.
According to the hospital's dean Dr TP Lahane, this was done under instruction from Arthur Road Jail officials who suspected a threat to Indrani's life.
"There is a practice of tasting food given to VVIPs in the hospital. Our RMOs are trained in tasting food. However, no one was forced to taste the food served to Indrani Mukerjea," Dr Lahane added.
"It's true that doctors are not expected to taste food, so we have requested the state to appoint food inspectors. We hope that the same would be decided as early as possible."
This defence didn't wash with the medical fraternity, however. An outraged Association of Medical Consultants, Mumbai, has decided to complain to the State Human Rights Commission.
"It's highly humiliating for the RMO concerned. The doctors are humans, not guinea pigs," said Dr Lalit Kapoor of the AMC. "If the jail authorities were so worried about the prisoner's life, they should have deployed one of their officials to taste the food. Who would have been responsible if anything had happened to the RMO."
This is ridiculous. Doctors are there to treat patients, not to be used as guinea pigs: Pune doctor
"They used to do this in ancient times when pet animals were fed the food before the emperor to ensure his safety," Dr Kapoor added. "This is not at all acceptable today. This should not be done to any human, whether a doctor or a common man."
"The AMC has unanimously decided to take up the case of the RMO and move the SHRC. We are currently drafting the complaint. It will be submitted to SHRC once in a day or two."
The incident generated a barrage of criticism on social media as well. A Facebook group of doctors was flooded with hundreds of angry messages from across India.
"Life of a murder accused has become more important than that of a doctor. This is ridiculous. Doctors are there to treat patients and not to be used as guinea pigs," a doctor from Pune posted.
JJ Hospital's handling of the high-profile patient has been far from smooth. A few days ago, it faced embarrassment when the Forensic Lab and Hinduja Hospital gave contradictory reports on Indrani's blood, urine and gastric lavage samples sent to them for examination.
Indrani was brought to the hospital on 2 October after being found unconscious in her cell in Arthur Road Jail, where she has been lodged since 7 September.
She was arrested in mid-August as the prime suspect in the 2012 murder of her daughter Sheena Bora.