Pune: Cancer-ridden doctor asks permission to die in a heart-breaking video

Facing bills of Rs 29 lakh for pancreatic cancer surgeries, medical officer from Chiplun to approach HC for euthanasia

Dr Lote makes the plea in the video

Bharat Maruthi Lote

Pune: Dr Bharat Maruthi Lote knows what he’s asking for drives a wedge through the medical community, but to him, there’s no other way out. The medical officer in the state health department, who has been battling pancreatic cancer, released a video last week, requesting euthanasia.

Euthanasia, also called mercy killing, is not legal in India. A bill for passive euthanasia -- withdrawing medical support from a terminally-ill patient -- was proposed by the central government last year, but it’s yet to see the light of day. In rare circumstances, though, the government has allowed passive euthanasia on humanitarian grounds.

Growing burden
Dr Lote, who has for the last 26 years worked as a medical officer at a primary health centre in Rampur village, Chiplun taluk, Ratnagiri, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March. The family immediately began treatment at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune, but the prognosis was dire. The doctor said the chances of recovery were slim, but I held onto hope," says Sangita, his wife.

Also Read: Aruna Shanbaug's greatest gift to India was passive euthanasia law: Pinki Virani

Dr Lote has undergone three surgeries since April, racking up medical bills of R29 lakh. He managed to withdraw R3 lakh from his provident fund and Sangita raised another R11 lakh by mortgaging their house and jewellery as well as by borrowing R10 lakh from friends. Sangita has been requesting the state health department to release his salary in advance, but there has been no response, she alleges. "For the last two-and-a-half months, my husband has been in the intensive care unit. He was also put on the ventilator at one time," she says. "I visit the health department office twice a week in the hope of convincing them to release his salary in advance, which is a norm in the department."


Dr Bharat Maruthi Lote and wife Sangita in happier times

Pushed to the wall
Crushed under the financial burden -- the lenders have now come asking for their money -- Dr Lote has sought what he sees as an end to the troubles. In a video released by Sangita on June 8, the doctor pleads for death. He highlights his family’s weak financial status and the health department’s alleged apathy.

"The government is not helping us out. He devoted his whole life to serving the poor in a small village. He was even awarded two state honours -- the Na Dho Karve Award and the Ahilya Joshi Award. This is how we are being repaid," says a helpless Sangita.

The family has approached a lawyer to finalise a petition on euthanasia to be submitted before the Bombay High Court. "We hold the health department responsible for pushing us to take this decision," she says.

The couple has two sons -- Pratik (22), an engineering graduate, and Mritunjan (20).

Satish Pawar, director of Directorate of Health Services, says he wasn’t aware of the request for early disbursement of salary.

"But if the request is as per the norms, we will disburse the amount soon."

Dr Rushali Patil, supervisor of Dr Lote’s case at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital, says she isn’t authorised to reveal patient information. Attempts to reach other hospital authorities didn’t yield results.

When passive euthanasia is allowed in India

Passive euthanasia is allowed in India only under exceptional circumstances. On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court legalised passive euthanasia by means of withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state while hearing a petition on behalf of former KEM Hospital nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who had been left brain dead and in a vegetative state after a sexual assault by a ward attendant. The court rejected that plea, but legalised passive euthanasia under rare circumstances. Shanbaug died in May 2015 of pneumonia, 42 years after the sexual assault. Last year, the Centre proposed a bill on passive euthanasia and invited suggestions on it.

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