16 years after pregnant womans death, Mumbai court convicts doctor

26 May, 2016

Sixteen years after Sarasheej Shete (52) lost his wife and son in a Mahim hospital after a stillbirth via a caesarean section procedure, the Bandra Metropolitan Magistrate Court convicted gynaecologist Sharad Ganesh Gogate on charges of medical negligence. “The accused caused death of Sunita and her child by his negligence, not amounting to culpable homicide,” the judgement observed. He has been handed out three months’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000.

Gogate has now challenged the order in the sessions court. “The court has accepted my appeal. I do not wish to comment further,” he said.

For Shete and his daughter Shrika Shete (21) however it has been a long battle half won. They now plan to approach the Maharashtra Medical Council. “I did not miss a single court hearing. Since 2010, there would be over 12 hearings every year and the judges and prosecutors would keep changing. I would take leaves from office every time,” said Shete, a technician with Central Railways.

His pregnant wife Sunita, then 34, had died at Surlata Hospital in 2000 while waiting for a doctor in the OT. The unborn son had died in her womb and had to be surgically taken out for post-mortem. Shete claimed his desperate requests to the accused doctor for the delivery went in vain the entire evening his wife was in labour.

In 2000, the Mulund-based Shetes had approached Surlata Hospital in Mahim during Sunita’s pregnancy. According to her brother, Nandkumar Katkar, she suffered from no health problem and her pregnancy was normal until September, 2000, when she suffered labour pains. “I admitted her on September 21 at the hospital after we realised it will be a pre-term baby. For one day, she was kept on labour-inducing medicines. The next day, when I visited her, I saw only one ayah in OT and she was put on saline drip. There was no doctor or nurse around. Her gynaecologist lived on hospital’s top floor. But he did not come to see her until 6 pm,” said Shete.

Sunita vomited for hours and later suffered from low blood pressure, before succumbing to asphyxiation on September 22, 2000 by the time the gynaecologist came which the court observed was several hours later. The post-mortem report, first conducted at JJ Hospital and later at KEM Hospital, stated respiratory failure as her cause of death.

In a report, a KEM forensic expert said, “It appears gross carelessness on the part of doctor in taking care of the patient.”

Another doctor, anaesthesist Sunil Gokhale, was also absent and consequently named the second accused. He passed away during the trial. Shrika, then five, said she has since then lived alone with her father hoping the trial would bring justice. “We managed somehow between his work, court hearings and household work.” She is now a fourth-year student of Electronics and Telecommunication at Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil College. The family had also filed a case in Consumer Court which awarded a penalty of Rs 20 lakh in 2015. Shete still laments, “Had the doctor arrived earlier, he would have managed to save one of them.”