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Newborn mistakenly claimed dead sparks high profile scandal

In a scandal reminiscent of the Gorakhpur tragedy, a newborn in a New Delhi hospital was pronounced dead by doctors, only for the family to find out the child was breathing on their way to the funeral. The hospital has been accused of both negligence and extortion.

Child mortality is a considerable issue in India

The event has seen huge levels of publicity across the media on an international level. This has resulted in this branch of the hospital losing its medical license, leading to its closure.

Two doctors involved in the diagnosis of the baby have been sacked. Max Healthcare, which  operate Shalimar Bagh, the upmarket private hospital at which the event took place, said it was “shaken and concerned at this rare incident”.

An inquiry has been ordered into the incident by state health minister Satyendar Jain. He announced on Twitter that investigations into potential criminal negligence will be taking place. Due to this, the doctors involved may not only have lost their jobs, but may also face potential prison sentences.

Police are also reportedly investigating the hospital under allegations of extortion. Ashish, the father of the child, alleged that the hospital had presented him a quote of Rs 50 lakh for keeping the child in the hospital’s nursery. Another bill for three expensive injections that were claimed to be able to increase the baby’s chance of survival was included.

On November 30 twins were born at the Max Hospital, one boy and one girl. The twins were born prematurely at 22 weeks, with the girl being stillborn. The boy was initially claimed to have been born in a critical condition, two hours after this he was declared dead by the two doctors in question.

The bodies of the two children were presented to the family in small plastic bags. Following this the family were taking the bodies to have traditional Hindu funeral rites performed when Praveen Malik, the baby’s grandfather, noticed movement from the bag. He found that the boy was breathing, upon which they rushed to a different hospital.

The newborn is currently receiving treatment at the Delhi NewBorn Centre. Due to time spent in unsanitary environments as well as the duration within the plastic bag, he suffered from a number of infections and was placed in an intensive care unit. This stay in intensive care reportedly cost the family a further Rs 100,000, though is a notably smaller sum than was allegedly quoted at the previous hospital.

The incident has sparked further distrust in the Indian health system. Widespread publicity over this event as well as the events that unfolded at Gorakhpur — in which more than 70 children died in just a week — has eroded the levels of trust between the public and healthcare workers, with accusations of negligence seemingly becoming increasingly common.

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