A shocking case of doctors in the Indian capital, Delhi, mistakenly declaring a newborn dead sparked outrage and led to the cancellation of the hospital’s licence. BBC Hindi’s Bhumika Rai met the parents at the centre of the ordeal.
Ashish Kumar remembers the morning of 30 November when he was told that his twins were stillborn in vivid detail.
Doctors at the privately run Max Hospital handed him his son and daughter in plastic bags.
“It was heartbreaking but I couldn’t cry because I had to stay strong for my wife,” he told BBC Hindi.
Instead he poured himself into arranging for the funeral of the babies, who had been born prematurely at 23 weeks.
But then came a massive shock.
“We were on our way for the funeral, when my father-in-law realised that one of the babies was moving inside the plastic bag,” he said.
Shock turned to elation as they rushed the infant to another hospital and doctors confirmed he was indeed alive. But then the horror of what had happened to his family started sinking in.
“Max Hospital declared my little boy dead while he was struggling to survive,” he said fighting back tears.
“He was wrapped in five layers of plastic. Nobody can survive without oxygen for that long.” The baby died after a five-day battle to survive.
Mr Kumar’s father Kailash who saw the baby move, said he was struggling to cope with the experience.
“They had put the twins together in one basket. They were not even cleaned. I can’t stop thinking that my grandson who was alive, was kept for hours with my granddaughter, who was stillborn.
“He looked so beautiful – exactly like my daughter. I had a faint hope that he would survive. We were planning the traditional ceremonies to celebrate his birth. But he is gone and all I can now see is a void that will never be filled,” Mr Kumar’s mother Meena said.
‘They never came home’
Mr Kumar said his family had been very excited about the impending arrival of the babies.
“We had no clue that there were any medical complications until 30 November. We took good care of my wife, Varsha, during her pregnancy,” he said.
He added that doctors at Max Hospital did an ultrasound on 29 November and told him that everything was fine.
“The hospital said that the babies would need to be kept in a special unit for four days and it would cost 100,000 rupees per day,” he adds.
Mr Kumar did not have enough money to pay the hospital but decided to borrow money from friends.
“Any parent would do that to save their babies. But I am heartbroken and Varsha has been completely inconsolable. My entire family was so excited to welcome the children.
“But they never came home. We never heard their cries. I have come to hate the silence in my house.”
Fight for justice
Delhi’s health minister, Satyendra Jain, announced on Friday that the hospital’s licence had been cancelled.
The organisation had last week fired the two doctors involved in the case.
But Mr Kumar insists that “it’s not enough”.
“The doctors need to be tried in a court. I won’t stop protesting until that happens,” he said.
The BBC’s request for an interview with a representative of the hospital was turned down.
Mr Kumar said he is fighting a separate “battle of emotions” at home.
“We had bought toys for them and had decorated the house. I am not sure what to do. I tried to throw the toys away but couldn’t even muster the courage to do that,” he added.
“I will have to live with this pain all my life. I worry if my family will ever be complete.”