An Indian gang-rape victim was “struggling against the odds” to survive on Friday after suffering a heart attack and brain injuries, as medics criticised a decision to fly her to Singapore.
In a bulletin issued the day after her arrival in Singapore, doctors at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital said the 23-year-old was battling an infection in her lungs and remained critically ill after the December 16 assault in Delhi.
“The patient is currently struggling against the odds, and fighting for her life,” Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer of Mount Elizabeth Hospital where she was airlifted to from India, said in a statement.
“Our medical team’s investigations upon her arrival at the hospital yesterday showed that in addition to her prior cardiac arrest, she also had infection of her lungs and abdomen, as well as significant brain injury,” he added.
“A multi-disciplinary team of specialists has been working tirelessly to treat her since her arrival, and is doing everything possible to stabilise her condition over the next few days.”
On Thursday night, the hospital revealed that the woman, who is a student in Delhi, had undergone “three abdominal surgeries and experienced a cardiac arrest in India” as it gave the first detailed rundown of her condition.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been treated in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital since she was thrown off a bus in the capital after six men took turns to rape her at the back of the vehicle on December 16.
She also suffered severe intestinal injuries as a result of being assaulted with an iron bar, according to police and prosecutors.
The decision to fly her in a special air ambulance was taken at a meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet on Wednesday, the government having already promised to pay all her medical bills.
But while ministers have insisted that the decision was taken purely on medical grounds, newspapers have suggested that authorities who have struggled to retain nationwide protests over the attack were keen to have her transferred out of the country.
An unnamed doctor who was part of a team of experts consulted about the transfer told The Hindu newspaper that they had only been asked whether it was safe to move her rather than if it was the best course of action.
“The question was not whether there were any deficiencies in treatment that would be met by moving her… She was being given the best possible care.”
Samiran Nundy, chairman of the organ transplant and gastro-surgery department of Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told the paper that the transfer made little sense.
“I just can’t understand why a critically ill patient with infection in blood and body, high grade fever and on the ventilator is being transferred,” he said.
“It will take weeks in this case to even look into the possibility of an intestinal transplant so why hurry and take the patient out from a facility which works so well. It seems more of a political move.”
Singh has ordered an official inquiry into the gang-rape and promised new laws to protect women as well as stiffer penalties for the worst sex crimes.
The government announced on Thursday that it would post the photos, names and addresses of convicted rapists on official websites to publicly shame them. The campaign will begin in Delhi, which has been dubbed India’s “rape capital”.
“Our prayers are with the brave young girl. The best possible medical care is being provided to her,” the premier told reporters on Friday.
“You have my assurance that our government is committed to bring the guilty to justice as soon as possible.”
His comments were echoed by Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main ruling Congress party and India’s most powerful politician.
“Our only wish today is that the victim recovers and culprits are punished and no time is lost in bringing perpetrators of such barbarous and heinous crimes to book,” she said alongside Singh.
The woman’s family has flown to Singapore to keep a vigil at the hospital.
Although they have not spoken to reporters, Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper quoted an official who had spoken to her father and two brothers.
“These are simple, rustic people, who have never dreamt of boarding an aircraft, much less travel to a foreign country in an air ambulance,” said the source.
“The father said he is reassured that the best is being done for his daughter and the rest lies in the hands of God.” – AFP