Mumbai: Aruna Shanbaug, who was in coma since 1973, passes away

World's oldest comatose patient, nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who had been in a vegetative state ever since she was raped, died in Mumbai's KEM Hospital on Monday morning after remaining in coma for almost 42 years, Dean Avinash Supe said. He said police permissions and other formalities are being completed before finalizing Shanbaug's last rites later on Monday.

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Shanbaug was suffering from pneumonia and was moved to the MICU due to her critical condition two days ago. While dean Supe had confirmed that her condition was ‘stable but critical’, Shanbaug was pronounced dead by the staff this morning.

Aruna Shanbaug. File pic/ IANS

Supe has made a public appeal to help trace any relatives or people close to Shanbaug who can get in touch with the hospital immediately.

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A junior nurse, Shanbaug was brutally raped by contract sweeper boy Sohanlal B. Walmiki in the same hospital on the night of November 27, 1973 when she was changing.

Also Read: KEM hospital staff celebrates nurse Aruna Shanbaug's birthday

While indulging in the act, he had choked her with a chain which cut off oxygen supply to her brain, resulting in injuries to the brain stem and cervical chord injury that left her in a vegetative state since then. 

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. Virani had moved the Supreme Court seeking euthanasia for Aruna.

The court turned down the mercy killing petition on March 7, 2011. However, it allowed "passive euthanasia" of withdrawing life support to patients in permanently vegetative state (PVS) but rejected outright active euthanasia of ending life through administration of lethal substances.

Refusing mercy killing of Aruna, the court had laid a set of tough guidelines under which passive euthanasia can be legalised through high court monitored mechanism. Reacting to the news of her death, Virani said, "Aruna got justice after all these painful years. She has found release and peace." "While going, Aruna gave India the landmark passive euthanasia law," she said.

In the 1980s, the city Corporation made an attempt to move her out of the hospital run by the civic body, triggering widespread protests and a strike by the nurses who cared for Aruna.

Her elder sister and only relative Shanta Nayak had expressed inability to take care of her due to financial constraints. Following the attack on her, nurses in Mumbai had struck work demanding improved conditions for Aruna and better working conditions for themselves.

Virani had narrated the harrowing experience of Aruna in her 1998 non-fiction book called 'Aruna's Story', while Duttakumar Desai wrote the Marathi play, 'Katha Arunachi' in 1994-95, which was staged under director Vinay Apte in 2002.

What happened to Sohanlal...

Sohanlal was caught and convicted, and served two concurrent seven-year sentences for assault and robbery, but neither for rape or sexual molestation, nor for the alleged "unnatural sexual offence."

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  • Kishore18-May-2015

    It is so poignant. The sad and extremely tragic life of Ms Shanbag has finally been given deliverance by the almighty. Her long suffering is at an end. We are so very thankful and grateful too for this closure. The apt thought at the moment is what is inscribed in the epitaph on the tombstone of Martin Luther King - 'Free at last, free at last, almighty I'm free at last'.

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