Thirty-two-year-old Rejimon a cameraperson with Mathrubhoomi, was admitted to the Thiruvananthapuram General Hospital in the state capital on October 27 after he complained of uneasiness. Within few hours of being hospitalised, Rejimon died.
In the four days since, Rejimon’s death has become a reason for doctors and journalists to target each other with allegations and social media taunts.
His colleagues and relatives have alleged that malpractice by the doctors resulted in his death. They claim that the doctors injected him with a drug used to treat epilepsy even though Rejimon had showed no history of having had the condition. The post mortem has however revealed that he had a brain hemorrhage.
As news of Rejimon’s death spread, strong protests by his relatives and members of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), with the involvement of state Health Minister V Sivakumar prompted the government to suspend duty doctor Dr Ayisha.
Mathrubhumi news channel started putting out flashes about the death and ‘medical negligence’, the next morning, the paper and other publications carried story about the death due to doctor’s carelessness.
This angered the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA) and Indian Medical Association who formally complained to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy seeking action against the people who protested in the hospital and demanding that Dr Ayisha’s suspension be revoked.
On October 30, a large number of doctors with KGMOA struck work by going on casual leave in mass to protest against Dr Ayisha’s suspension.
The medical community claims that Rejimon had traits of epilepsy earlier and his death was not caused by the injection of the anti-epilepsy drug as his journalist colleagues claim. However, Rejimon’s family denied that he had epilepsy.
Allegations that Rejimon died due to medical negligence were nothing but a story cooked up by Mathrubhoomi for its ratings, doctors claimed in Facebook posts. Doctors from across the state have expressed their support on social media and messaging platforms. They have also alleged that Dr Ayisha was suspended even before a preliminary inquiry was conducted, due to pressure from the media.
One example of the popularity of the doctors’ posts is one by Jithin T Joseph who has posed several questions to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The post has been shared by many doctors. In his post, Dr Joseph says that Dr Ayisha gave Rejimon medication to control his epilepsy, and asked him to go for an expert check up.
“What else is the doctor working in a government hospital with limited resources expected to do”, Dr Joseph says.
He also asked why Dr Ayisha was suspended without a preliminary enquiry.
“Is it right that a publication puts the picture of the doctor on their channel and allege that she was negligent?” he asks.
“Is there not a law in this land to put a person on trial and convict if guilty?” he adds.
Another Facebook post titled “We ended up becoming doctors now no option other than getting thrashed’ was more critical about journalists.
The author says that if we go by recent media reports that targeted doctors, one would be forced to believe that doctors in Kerala were more dangerous than stray dogs or beef. It says that the media, especially Mathrubhumi has been characterising doctors as cruel people walking through hospitals wanting to kill people.
“The post mortem said the man had a brain haemorrhage, what will Mathrubhumi that celebrated the death of its employee for two days write now” the post said.
“We can expect them to write that the man died as the doctor was misbehaving or not dressed well,” the posts said.
MLA V Sivankutty, who visited the hospital after Rejimon’s death, told The News Minute that Dr Ayisha could have failed to diagnose Rejimon’s illness. He also claimed that what happened to the patient was not done intentionally by the doctor, but that she behaved very badly with the patient’s relatives.
“More than the issue of medical negligence, the doctor’s behavior irked the protestors. Obviously it was not an intentional mistake by the doctor,” Sivankutty claimed.
However Rejimon’s colleagues still maintain that his death was due to alleged medical negligence.
“He (Rejimon) had no history of illness. His sugar and pressure were normal when he was admitted. He had regained consciousness some time after reaching the hospital. After that when he felt dizzy, the doctor gave him an injection and within 15 minutes he died,” says Prasannan K, Thiruvananthapuram secretary of KUWJ.
“He was just 32. He has a three-year-old daughter, and he was the only breadwinner in the family. Now who will look after them? He lost his life due to a minor carelessness,” Prasannan added.
He also alleged that the doctor behaved very badly with Rejimon’s relatives. When they asked her about his medical condition, the doctor allegedly threw the prescription in their face and asked them to read it by themselves.
The jurisdictional cantonment police have said that based on the post-mortem report (the viscera report is yet to come), the death was caused due to a brain hemorrhage, but only a detailed investigation would reveal the actual cause of death.
Rejimon’s death has created a chasm between two professional communities; it has also raised the question if the media can ‘declare’ medical negligence without investigation results.