Aruna Shanbaug, the nurse who was living in a vegetative state after being brutally assaulted and raped by a ward boy at Mumbai's KEM Hospital 42 years ago, passed away on Monday morning.
On the night of 27 November, 1973, Shanbaug had gone to the basement of the hospital to change her clothes when ward boy and sweeper Sohanlal Bhartha Valmiki, whom she had scolded for stealing food, attacked her.
He first choked her with a dog chain and then brutally assaulted and sodomised her. The strangulation stopped the passage of oxygen to the brain, leading to injuries in the brain stem and cervical cord. The incident left her blind and paralysed for the rest of her life.
Shanbaug was given intensive care at KEM Hospital. The nurses, who were also her colleagues, used to feed her, clean her body, and change her clothes with immense care and love.
Why did Valmiki almost kill Shanbaug 42 years ago?
According to Pinki Virani, author of 'Aruna's Story', Shanbaug had accused Valmiki of stealing dog food, used for experiments, from hospital.
She had threatened to report his activities to the authorities, and this triggered him to brutally assault her.
Where is Shanbaug's rapist?
Although Shanbaug spent all her life restricted to the hospital cot, her rapist was set free after serving just seven years in jail.
In what can be termed as 'partial justice', Valmiki was punished only on charges of robbery and attempt to murder because neither the hospital authorities nor her fiancé, a junior doctor at KEM, accused him of anal rape.
The Dean of KEM and her fiancé Dr Sundeep Sardesai chose to remain silent about the rape in order to hide Shanbaug's sexual history in the wake of a budding relationship between the couple, which never blossomed.
Sardesai, who took great care of Shanbaug after the incident, tied the knot with someone else a few years later, after it was clear that she would never recover.
Euthanasia for Shanbaug
Activist, journalist, author, and Shanbaug's friend Pinki Virani appealed to the Supreme Court for allowing euthansia. Virani argued that keeping Shanbaug on ventilation violated her right to live with dignity. Following this, the court set up a panel to examine Shanbaug's condition, which the medical team reported as "permanent vegetative state". However, the apex court rejected the petition on 7 March, 2011.
While rejecting the petition, the SC stated that although Shanbaug has been bedridden for years, she never got bed sores because of the immense care she was getting from the staff of the hospital, NDTV reports.
The nurses and other staff members of the KEM Hospital who were looking after Shanbaug ever since she went into a coma, had opposed the plea for her mercy killing, reportedly due to their attachment to 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," said former Dean at KEM Hospital Dr Pragna Pai.