Published On: Mon, May 18th, 2015

Aruna Shanbaug’s ordeal ends after 42 years

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Aruna Shanbaug, a former nurse who lived in a vegetative state for the past 42 years after being brutally sexually assaulted at the KEM Hospital and became the face of the debate on euthanasia in India, died today.

A junior nurse in KEM in 1973, Aruna’s story began like a fairy tale – a pretty smiling nurse who fell in love with the handsome doctor in neurology whom she assisted during work. Families approved and a wedding was on the cards. But fate cruelly intervened in the form of a ward boy-cum-sweeper with whom she once had a minor tiff. In retaliation, he strangled her with dog chain, while he sodomised her.
She was found unconscious the next day by a doctor and the strangulation rendered her brain-dead and she had been lying in KEM ever since. Her fiancé waited four years for her to revive and then succumbing to family pressure, married another woman. As for the ward boy who brutally raped her, he was given only seven years of imprisonment for assault as the courts back then did not count sodomy as rape.

After her brutal assault, Shanbaug had been the special occupant of a room attached to ward No 4 on the ground floor of KEM Hospital.She was attended to by nurses all these years who took care of her food and other necessities.
Nearly 38 years after she suffered the brutal assault, the Supreme Court had on January 24, 2011 responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by journalists Pinki Virani, by setting up a medical panel to examine her.

The Supreme Court rejected the petition filed by Pinki Virani who had sought euthanasia for Shanbaug, saying the court should “end her unbearable agony.”

The case was opposed by nurses at the hospital who took turns taking care of her for more than four decades after Shanbaug’s family said they were unable to support her.

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