Hospital keeps dead body as kin fail to pay for surgery

32-year-old dies after undergoing pacemaker implant; brother alleges hospital wouldn't give him the body for last rites, as he can't afford to pay the Rs 4 lakh bill

After the kin of a 32-year-old man, who died after a heart surgery, failed to pay for the procedure, which cost Rs 4 lakh, hospital authorities refused to release the body, alleged the deceased's brother. 

Waiting for a funeral: Lalchand Prasad, who is waiting to perform the
last rites of his brother, fled to Bihar after hospital authorities warned him
of police action for non-payment of the bill

According to Bhiwandi resident Lalchand Prasad (22), his brother Dularchand complained of severe chest pain on the night of December 12. After some five hospitals refused to admit Dularchand, Lifeline hospital in Bhiwandi referred him to Platinum hospital in Mulund. Around 2 am, the brothers arrived at the recommended facility.

Said Lalchand's friend Hiralal Ram, who accompanied the brothers to the hospital, "The doctors said that if we did not pay Rs 50,000 up front, they would not admit Dularchand. But later, they took him in after we deposited Rs 40,000."

The doctors told Lalchand that his brother had suffered a heart attack and needed to undergo an expensive procedure, for a pacemaker implant, immediately.

Lalchand signed the consent paper, agreeing to bear the entire expense of the treatment. In the next 24 hours, as he was arranging for the money, the hospital informed him that Dularchand died after the surgery, and the cost of the surgery he underwent was Rs 4 lakh.

'Pay first'
Said Lalchand, "The hospital refused to hand over the body, stating that I needed to pay the Rs 4 lakh bill first. I told them I could not arrange for such a big amount. But they said, 'Tum kahin bhi jao, kuchh bhi karo. Chaar lakh rupaye to dene hi padenge, nahin to body nahin milegi.'" The brothers, both helpers in a small weaving factory, earn Rs 4,000 a month.

At a loss, an unlettered Lalchand approached a Mulund-based social worker, Usha Damani, for help. Usha called up the hospital and received the same response. Lalchand met the doctors again, breaking into tears this time, imploring them for the body. "I just wanted to perform my brother's last rites," he said. So the doctor asked him to pay Rs 2 lakh. "The doctor said that he was giving me a concession of Rs 2 lakh, and said, 'Pay half the money and take the body. If you can't pay this much, I'll approach the police,'" said Lalchand. Unable even to arrange for Rs 2 lakh, and fearing the consequences of non-payment, Lalchand ran away to his village in Bihar. 
Said Usha, "Lalchand is so poor that even if he sells all the property he has in his native place, he still wouldn't be able to arrange for Rs 2 lakh. Fearing police action, he has fled to Bihar."

Dularchand is survived by his wife, four daughters, and an 11-month-old son.

Advocate speaks
"Holding back a dead body is not an offence under the IPC or the civil law, but the hospital cannot do that and should immediately hand the body over to the kin. If the kin refuse to pay the medical bill, the hospital can later register a court case against the relatives or friends who brought the patient to the hospital,"
said criminal lawyer Shyam Keshwani.

The other side
Sujit Paul, CEO, Platinum hospital, said, "The patient had suffered a heart attack so we operated on him and installed a pacemaker, but he died after 24 hours. We had taken a written consent from the deceased's brother for paying the entire medical bill. Nonetheless, we are not pressurising him to pay the full cost, we gave him a 50 per cent concession. But he is still refusing to pay.
We have informed the police that Lalchand is not receiving the body."

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