The last picture was taken by a 16-year-old girl from Texas, United States, on the roof of her house, before she jumped to her death
Why are teenagers' suicides not taken seriously by law enforcement agencies as well as autopsy surgeons - that's the burning question, with the last few days seeing a spate of such cases, worrying medical practitioners, including forensic experts and psychiatrists. They feel that the circumstances behind such deaths should be ascertained and the cases seriously probed in the larger interest of society.
The last photo posted by 14-year-old Manpreet Sahans, minutes before flinging himself off the terrace in Andheri
July 18: Eighteen-year-old son of an IAS-officer couple allegedly leapt to his death from Dhariya Mahal's terrace.
July 29: Manpreet Sahans, 14, jumped to death from the terrace of his building in Sher-e-Punjab, Andheri East.
July 30: Pramugdha Jhanwar, 20, a literature student, consumed 62 sleeping pills and committed suicide in an Andheri high-rise.
August 1: Sixteen-year-old Jyoti Sharma fell from the 27th floor of Mayflower, Hiranandani Meadows, Thane, but it's not clear if she jumped or fell.
'In-depth analysis needed'
"In all the recent cases, the one thing common is that neither the police nor the family could come across any clue to ascertain the exact circumstances that compelled the teens to take the drastic step. Even the autopsy surgeons have not gone beyond the routine post-mortem to assist the police in ascertaining the circumstances," said Dr Indrajit Khandekar, professor and in-charge of Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit at Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram, Wardha.
"The irony is that all autopsies are conducted as per provisions laid under section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code and, as per the order from the police, only to ascertain the cause of the death, nothing beyond it.
"The need of the hour is to bring amendments to the existing provisions in CrPC, which is almost 119 years old. And, in cases, where there appears a suicide trend in a certain age group with no specific reasons to end life, law enforcement agencies should take them seriously."
With teenagers being exposed to drugs and other addictions, including online gaming, it is crucial that the autopsy surgeon, with the assistance of a psychologist/psychiatrist and the investigating officer, go beyond his/her call of duty and conduct an in-depth probe by carrying out a psychological autopsy, study circumstances around the death and find out any addictions behind the act, said Dr Khandekar.
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Dr Khandekar has submitted a detailed 82-page report to the Prime Minister's Office and the Union Home Ministry, which is presently being studied by the Law Commission of India so that necessary amendments can be made to the CrPC and Indian Evidence Act. Dr Khandekar has also submitted in detail the functioning of autopsy centres across 42 countries, where autopsy surgeons work closely with other agencies, a trend missing in India.
'Surgeons must do more'
Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of the department of forensic medicine at Nair medical college is of a similar view. Even if the police don't insist on preserving blood or viscera for chemical analysis or any other scientific evaluation, autopsy surgeons should preserve the same to rule out probabilities in unexpected and unexplained circumstantial deaths, he opined.
"It is in the larger interest of the society that the autopsy surgeon evaluates such unexplained suicides. Also, preventive measures should be taken, if any trend is witnessed, to prevent similar deaths in the future."
Dr Mohite gave the example of the Versova sibling deaths case of Rehab and Rameez Chougle, which is still unsolved, with even the manner of death - suicidal, homicidal or accidental - a mystery even now.
Dr Sanjay Kumavat, a psychiatrist who has worked closely with the government on its mental health policy, said simply ascertaining the cause of death wasn't the only role of autopsy surgeons, and that they needed to take the assistance of mental health professionals to understand the underlying psychological reasons behind the individual's extreme step.
Cause of death
Disagreeing with the views expressed by medical experts, police surgeon Dr S M Patil said, "The role of the autopsy surgeon is only to ascertain the cause of the death, and not collect and preserve samples in each and every case, which is not suspicious otherwise. Also, unnecessary collection of samples for testing will only increase the workload of forensic scientists at state-run laboratories, where there are already hundreds of cases pending. Our aim is that the next of kin should immediately get the post-mortem report with the cause of the death. And, it is a known fact, samples sent to forensic labs only delay the submission of the final cause of death."
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