23-year-old Shafna died on January 8 after she delivered a child through a 'Gravity assisted procedure' at a one-room clinic in Malappuram.

Woman dies in childbirth in Kerala naturopathy clinic not first patient death for doctorImage for representation only
news Health Friday, January 12, 2018 - 10:20

The Facebook page of 'Sprouts International Naturopathic Maternity Studio' based out of Manjeri in Malappuram has the drawing of a new-born baby as its cover photo. "Prevent cesarean because we believe it's a disease" is written prominently over the picture.

The page is filled with updates on "natural" means of delivery, from water birthing to natural birthing and promises for a painless delivery. 

However on Monday evening, 23-year-old Shafna, a native of Malappuram district, died at the clinic, soon after she gave birth to her first baby.

Shafna delivered the baby boy standing, through a procedure conceived by those at the clinic, where the mother gives birth into a tub filled with water.

Two hours later, however, Shafna passed away in the one-room centre run by Mampad-native 'doctor' Aabir Hyder and his wife Hudha Fathima, surrounded by her parents Abdul Salam and Jameela. 

Talking about Shafna's death, District Medical Officer Dr Sakeena told TNM: "The patient had cervical bleeding which the doctor did not realise. This resulted in her death." 

The DMO also told TNM that the "gravity assisted delivery" took place in an unlit room. Shafna had a cervical tear after giving birth but the doctor was allegedly unaware of it. 

"They even assured her that the excessive bleeding from the tear was just "bad blood" which has to go out. Hospital staff said she had a contracted pelvis. But there is no way to confirm all of this as they have destroyed all evidence and the victim's family too has no complaints," the DMO said  

On Wednesday, district medical officials sealed off the centre that had been functioning out of Ernad Hospital, a private hospital based in Manjeri. The DMO said that the naturopathic centre had been functioning out of the hospital, with the cooperation from the resident doctor. 

According to Dr John Joseph Tharayil, the owner of the hospital, they rented out a room on the top floor of the hospital to the naturopathy centre over a year ago. In the last one year,  Aabir and his wife has attended at least 12 deliveries, Dr John said, adding that the room was rented out for Rs 10,000 a month. 

Aabir is a Bachelor of Naturopathy and Yoga (BNY).

Sprouts naturopathic centre, a repeat offender

The centre functioned out of a single room at the Ernad hospital, with little or no equipment. According to Dr Renuka, the deputy medical officer, there was a small board outside the hospital. 

The health department officials who inspected the centre on Wednesday, however, were in for a shock when they realised that the centre was run by the same doctor who had a previous case against him.

In October 2016, Aabir was booked under sections 336, 337 and 338 after a new-born baby died in a clinic he was running out of Kottakkal in the same district. 

Kottakkal police who registered a case against Aabir told TNM, "They used to run the centre in Venniyoor in Kottakkal. They performed water birth on a woman who had two cesareans earlier. The baby just wouldn't come out. After she developed complications, the woman was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the woman was operated on and the baby was taken out. However, the new-born did not survive. The woman's family then filed a complaint against the centre, following which, it was shut down." 

Although the Kottakkal centre was shut down, the Facebook page of Sprouts clinic continued to be active. 

Then how did Aabir and his wife start another centre just kilometers away, in the same district? 

When asked, Dr Joseph who owns the Ernad hospital in which the new centre functioned out of, said that he was aware of the criminal case against Aabir. 

"That complication rose because they suggested water birth to a woman who has underwent cesarean before. I told them that they shouldn't do so anymore, that it is risky to do so," Dr John said. 

Even as the district medical officer is mulling action against the hospital, Dr John maintains that he has done nothing wrong. 

"We merely rented out a room to the centre. We are not responsible for anything else. By the time they brought this woman to our labour room, she had died," he said.

Our methods are safe

Aabir and his wife Hudha vehemently defend that their methods are safe. 

Speaking to TNM, Hudha argued that the woman did not have excessive bleeding like the DMO is claiming. 

"It is a safe procedure, Shafna was alright and healthy after it. She ate her food and drank water and tender coconut water. She had normal bleeding. Her BP and pulse were normal, but then suddenly it plunged and she died. It was a natural death," Hudha argued. 

She also went on to claim that it was destiny that Shafna was to die. 

"What can we do if that's what destiny is? It was like she knew she was going to die after childbirth, be it naturopathy or allopathy. She had come to terms with that. She had even bought so many clothes for the baby for the next two years," she argued. Hudha isn't a qualified doctor but "assists" her doctor husband. 

Victim's family 

While Shafna's death has yet again brought back the debate over naturopathy, Shafna's family has come forward to defend the centre. 

Speaking to TNM, Shafna's father Abdul Salam said that the family has absolutely no complaint over her death. 

"Why should we have a complaint? I was there, my wife was there. Shafna, my only daughter, gave birth safely when we were all in the room. She did whatever she had to do before she died. She called up everyone, spoke to them nicely and then left us. We don't see anything unnatural in her death," Abdul Salam said. 

He added that the family does not want to know the reason for Shafna's death. 

"We are staunch believers of Islam and so was our daughter. She might have thought it was a blessing to leave, even before her parents. She didn't want to become a burden to her ageing parents, may be. If you think that way, there is nothing to be upset about," said Abdul Salam, a Gulf-returnee from Vettichira. 

The state will act

The DMO's report says the clinic and doctors were negligent but Aabir has stuck to his stand.  "When asked about their qualification, they said that they have learnt naturopathy and have also watched delivery procedures in private hospitals. They claimed that even midwives have no qualification, so why should they be in the dock," the DMO told TNM after she filed the report.

Though the victim's family has no complaint, the DMO says the state will act. "Death of a citizen is the responsibility of the state and since this clinic has not conformed to any public health laws, we can take action against them," she said.