Last November premature twins (23 weeks) were born, one alive, one stillborn, at Max Hospital in Delhi. At some point, they were both put in plastic bags and given to the parents to bury. However, when the parents were on their way to have their last rites said, they discovered that one of the twins was, in fact, still alive. (Sadly, the baby died a few days later from medical complications.)
And now, the Delhi Medical Council has (somehow) ruled there was “no negligence” on the part of the hospital since they never “formally declared” 1the baby dead. It seems this is not the fault of the hospital or the doctors but merely an issue of miscommunication. This report now ends any pursuit of criminal charges against Max Hospital, as well.
“The case at Max Hospital in Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh triggered an uproar. Not only did it come at the time when various families were reporting stories of being overcharged by private hospitals, but the Delhi government had also responded strongly.
In December, the Delhi government canceled the license of the hospital and shut it down. Max issued a press release saying the babies were “unfortunately handed over (as dead)” but also said the government’s decision to cancel their license was ”unfair”. 2
It seems the DMC relied on three main arguments in giving the hospital a pass:3
- pre-term babies sometimes have a poor chance of survival.
- the family told the hospital not to resuscitate the second child after the doctors informed them about the chances for the child as well as the costs involved (Rs 50 lakh)
- Max Hospital never issued a formal death certificate for this baby and says they did not actually tell the parents that the second baby was also dead.
However, regardless of the fact that there wasn’t a “formal declaration of death” for the male twin, why didn’t the doctors explicitly explain to the parents that one of their babies was alive while giving them the dead one? Perhaps because the process was a bit chaotic.
According to hospital staff:4
- Priyanka Sharma (nurse), says that Dr. Vishal Gupta (pediatrics consultant) told her to hand over the baby to the parents.
- She communicated this to Sreelata KC (nurse).
- Sreelata communicated this to Dr. Shweta Talhan (obstetrics and gynecology consultant).
- Dr. Talhan then signed the documentation for this handover.
- Dr. Ajay Prakah Mehta, senior consultant for neonatology said he didn’t declare the baby dead and that the “twins were handed over without his knowledge or approval.”
- Dr. Vishal Gupta, consultant for pediatrics, said he didn’t declare the baby dead.
- And Medical superintendent Dr. Archana Bajaj, and the staff nurse, Priyanka Sharma, said death certificate was not made and the baby’s death was not recorded because the “male baby was not admitted.”
But all this was really moot anyway given that according to current laws nurses on duty can hand over the bodies of the newborns without any written direction from pediatricians.
“The second baby (female) was stillborn. The first (male) was born alive, but with a heart rate of around 30 beats per minute (in normal cases, it is around 120 to 180 per minute). By about noon on the same day, the attending paediatricians said they “could not hear the heartbeat” of the boy.”5
Given that no one could hear the heartbeat, that the parents didn’t want the baby resuscitated, and that nurses don’t need written direction from doctors to hand over bodies, it’s no surprise this happened. The system is obviously flawed.
Even though the family claims that both babies were handed over to the family members in two different parcels “in a yellow colored polybag by hospital staff for cremation,”6 nurses deny that claiming they were handed over in “clean white sheets,”7 by a nurse, in the presence of the security team and the obstetrician. And with the DMC ruling, the family has no recourse.
This isn’t the first time Max Hospital has had problems. The Delhi government have also accused them of not allocating beds to people from economically weak sections of society, which is mandated by law.
We are so sorry for this family’s loss. No one should have to deal with this issue after losing both their children.