A naturopathy hospital in Keralaâ€™s Malappuram district has come under the scanner after an alternative birthing method went wrong, leading to the death of the infant.
On October 18, Haseena Mohammad, a native of Tirurangadi in the district, lost her child during a water birth. After Haseena herself experienced heavy bleeding, she was sent to MIMS hospital in Kottakkal, 7km from the naturopathy centre.
The Kottakkal police have registered a case of unnatural death and a complaint against Abbas Hussain, doctor-and-owner of the clinic, his wife (a yoga instructor), and his father-in-law for allegedly causing hurt. The police said that provisions for medical negligence will be added after receiving the post-mortem report.
According to Sub-Inspector Suresh Babu, Haseena had undergone three caesarean deliveries in the past and wanted a normal delivery this time. The doctor at the clinic reportedly convinced Haseena to opt for a water birth by promising her a natural delivery.
The family alleged that Haseena was not given any medication before or during the delivery, except for tender coconut water and some green leaves.
Suresh Babu added that although Haseena was rushed to MIMS hospital when she developed complications, neither the naturopathy clinic nor MIMS hospital informed the police of the death.
â€śWe suspect the two hospitals are connected. That explains why they did not inform the police about the death of the child, which is the standard procedure. The childâ€™s body was buried the same day and Haseenaâ€™s family filed a police complaint a few hours later,â€ť SI Satheesh said.
The childâ€™s body was exhumed on Saturday and has been sent for post-mortem. However, the police have not made any arrests in the case yet. According to TV reports, the clinic has remained shut since the incident.
A report submitted by Reproductive Child Health Officer for Malappuram district, Dr S Renuka, reveals that the clinic does not possess required licences and that three similar cases were previously reported at the clinic, which went unattended.
She told The New Indian Express that the owner has naturopathy certification from Karnataka, but it is yet to be verified if that is valid in Kerala. Dr Renuka pointed out that the clinic, which received at least 30 patients a day, lacked even the basic infrastructure for dealing with any complications associated with delivery. She also said that there was a high risk of infection since the clinic had only a bathtub and a table for use of the patients.
Dr Anupama, Chairperson of the Women's Wing of the Indian Medical Association (Kerala) said that in difficult cases, such as that of Haseena, opting for a water birth was particularly dangerous and inadvisable.
"We believe that such techniques are not devoid of risks, more so in the case of a patient who has undergone three caesarean deliveries. Generally in such cases, it is the baby who is at a higher risk than the mother," Dr Anupama said.
She added that water births involve a number of risks.
"First of all, there is the glaring issue of hygiene. The chances of cross infection are alarmingly high in this case. Only after a thorough cleaning of the tub, can it be reused. The risk is greater in case of HIV-positive patients. Secondly, there is no mechanism to monitor the heartbeat of the baby under water. This is highly risky for the baby. Due to complications in the mother, the oxygen supply to the baby may be affected during the process of labour. This will go undetected," she said.