What killed Versova siblings within 24 hrs?

Jul 07, 2012, 09:39 IST | Saurabh Vaktania and Vinod Kumar Menon

Rehab and Rameez Chougle suddenly started suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting on Wednesday and died the very next day; lapses in investigations may delay answers for shocked family and friends

Relatives and friends have been shocked by the deaths of two Versova-based siblings, who died within 24 hours of each other after exhibiting the same set of symptoms. While their parents and kin are still reeling from the shock of the unexpected deaths, mystery reigns over what caused them to experience similar physical complaints simultaneously, collapse within hours of each other, and then die in such close succession. 

While Rameez Chougle (25) died en route to hospital in the wee hours of Thursday, his sister Rehab Chougle (27) died in Kokilaben Hospital the same evening.

Rameez and Rehab stayed at their residence in Yari Road, Versova with their mother, Neha Chougle. Their father works in Oman. Rameez, a homeopathic doctor, had just completed his BHMS, and was setting up his practice. Rehab, who earlier worked as a journalist, was working on her book.

Night of decline
Cops have revealed the chilling sequence of events that led to the deaths of Rameez and Rehab. On Wednesday night, brother and sister sat down for dinner. According to the Versova police, both had been indisposed since the afternoon, complaining of loose motion and vomiting. Late into the night, Rameez began to complain of extreme dehydration. Soon he was vomiting blood. Panicking, Rehab alerted her mother in the next room, gathered relatives and friends and made frenzied preparations to convey him to the hospital.

A close friend revealed, “Her brother died in the building itself, on his way to the hospital.” Neha summoned a local family doctor, who declared the boy dead. Rehab then informed her father and a few relatives of the shocking death.

By the time family members started pouring in, Rehab too started feeling dizzy and collapsed. She was rushed to Kokilaben Ambani hospital, where she was admitted to the ICU. “On Thursday morning, her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis,” the friend added. On Thursday evening, she too went into cardiac arrest and died. Her body was sent to Cooper postmortem Centre for an autopsy, as the death had occurred within 24 hours of admission.

No police case
Surprisingly, no police investigations have been initiated into the matter. In spite of the fact that Rehab and Rameez shared the same symptoms and Rehab collapsed hours after her brother’s death, a post mortem was not ordered for Rameez.

Dahiphale said, “We have registered a case of accidental death. Both of them died naturally, due to heart attack. If the family makes any complaint against anyone, we will file a case. So far, the family is not blaming anyone for the incident.”

Senior Police Inspector Sharad Borse of Versova police station said, “As a local doctor declared Rameez dead and gave a cause of death, there was no reason to carry out a post mortem. However, an autopsy was conducted on his sister. We are not suspecting any foul play. Even the parents have not lodged a complaint.”

API Balaji Dahiphale of Versova Police station, “Preliminary inquires have revealed that the siblings had health problem since the afternoon of July 4, complaining of vomiting and loose motion. Their condition worsened a little after midnight, when the Chougle family doctor was summoned. He certified that the boy had died a natural death. We then issued a no-objection certificate for the boy’s last rites to be conducted on Thursday morning. Hence, the body was not sent for an autopsy.”

Additional commissioner of police [west region] Vishwas Nangre Patil, however, promised to look into the case, saying, “Two deaths in less than 24 hours is a serious matter, and we will get to the depth of it. I will go through all the details in the case and investigate it properly. I will personally speak to the treating doctors and will clear all my doubts before making any statement.”

While friends speculated online about the cause of the deaths, cops have requested them to refrain from doing so till further investigations are conducted.

Dead end
In the event that investigations are conducted, cops may run into dead ends – Rameez’s body was not sent for autopsy, and Rehab’s viscera has not been preserved for chemical analysis to determine if the cause of death was poisoning or any other health ailment.

The forensic surgeon from Cooper Postmortem Centre who performed the autopsy on Rehab, said, “The autopsy was performed on Friday morning, and lasted nearly an hour. I have concluded that the death was caused by pneumonia with cerebral pulmonary oedema with hepatomegaly.” The stomach of the deceased was empty, and that she had only one kidney, which could be a congenital anomaly. The surgeon even added that his autopsy findings matched the abdomen sonography findings at Kokilaben hospital. Asked why the viscera wasn’t preserved, he said that the cops had not asked for it.

Still a girl, almost a woman: Friends remember Rehab
‘We all are artists, musicians, dancers, writers. Everything else is just a way to pay bills,’ reads the introduction to Rehab’s blog, which is read by 80 members. Word of her tragic death spread fast on Twitter, where Rehab had 2,289 followers. An avid blogger, Rehab was active on social networking sites and loved books. She read many books and also distributed them among her friends, encouraging them to read. She was even working on her own book.

Netra Parekh, her friend, said, “She wrote beautifully. No one could beat her in that.” In 2007, Rehab also worked with a popular local newspaper, covering news from the sphere of education. Her Twitter profile gives us a glimpse of her creative and curious personality: ‘Lover of words, design and books. Always on the lookout for pop art and culture. Lost, but exploring’. One of her blogger friends gave her a fitting tribute: ‘She liked sharing. She was still a girl. She was almost a woman. She was both. And she was discovering her ideas about womanhood and relationships.

She had ambitions like every one else. But she also had questions that not many of her peers did. She was smart. But you could always count on her quirky side. Dressing up in superhero costumes cut out of newspapers, painting Mumbai’s walls with pretty and crazy messages, posing in a funny hat. An African proverb goes, ‘A man is not dead until he is forgotten.’ Rehab, you live on in the thousands of lovely memories that you created with us.’

What the rulebook says about autopsies
According to police surgeon S M Patil, Section 174 of the CrPC says that a body has to be sent for an autopsy if he/she passes away within 24 hours of admission to any hospital. This is why Rehab’s body was sent for an autopsy. Rameez’s case, however, is more complicated. The rulebooks say that in case a family doctor or private doctor certifies the cause of death, he or she should have treated the said person for some days, or should be fully aware of the medical history of the deceased. If the doctor is not completely sure of the cause of death, he should insist for an autopsy and inform the police.  

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