The family of a 22-month-old boy has accused doctors at the state-run JJ Hospital of negligence after the child, who was allegedly undergoing treatment for rabies despite not being infected by it, died on Sunday morning on the hospital’s ventilator. The 22-month-old, Azan Shaikh, was admitted in JJ hospital on March 26. Before admission, his father Wasim Ashraf Shaikh, a constable with Vasai police, had taken him to Lilavati Hospital where Azan’s mother, Mariam Shaikh, worked as a staff nurse.
“My son was not able to sleep at night. He had fever. At the Lilavati hospital, doctors prescribed medicines and referred us to Kasturba hospital, which referred us to JJ hospital,” said constable Shaikh. Doctors suspected that Azan had contracted rabies and allegedly put him on symptomatic treatment without confirming the diagnosis.
“They said in Mumbai there is no centre to confirm diagnosis. I myself took all his reports and samples to Bengaluru for tests,” added Shaikh. At the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru on March 31, Azan’s samples tested negative for rabies. Shaikh claimed that by then his son’s condition had deteriorated. “We kept asking doctors what had happened to our son, and they never discussed the treatment he was undergoing,” he said. In the complaint, the parents claimed that Azan was also given blood transfusion on March 29.
On Sunday at 3.30 am, duty on doctors informed the parents that Azan had passed away. A post-mortem was conducted on Sunday. “We are waiting for final histopathology report before confirming the final case of death. His samples have been preserved,” said a forensic expert from hospital. JJ Police said a non-cognisance report has been filed. “We have recorded statements of the parents. An inquiry has been initiated, but we cannot register a case unless medical committee opines on it,” said Inspector Iqbal Awalkar.
Senior authorities at the hospital said the boy was treated symptomatically after he presented symptoms of photophobia and hydrophobia, both classic signs of rabies infection. “The treatment was given as per protocol. The boy was brought to us in a very critical condition after two hospitals refused to admit him, fearing he had rabies infection. We admitted the boy despite facing a shortage of ventilators,” said a senior administrative official.
The official added that since final diagnosis takes time, a treatment was initiated as per symptoms. Chief Operating Officer at Lilavati Horpital, Dr Ravi Shankar, said, “There are specific hospitals to treat such infectious diseases. We do not have that facility. The nurses and doctors checked the patient and saw symptoms of rabies because of which he was referred.”
The JJ police have forwarded the complaint to a medical panel at the JJ Group of Hospitals. Senior doctors from the hospital said a panel has been formed and an inquiry has been initiated. Azan’s family has, however, demanded that an inquiry must be handled by a third party. “How can we trust that the hospital will be non-biased in inquiring against their own?” said Mariam.