Mumbai: For 42 years they waged a quiet battle here to keep alive Aruna Shanbaug and now the nurses of Mumbai’s KEM Hospital want Room no. 4 to be turned into a memorial to her. Shanbaug, a nurse at the hospital, existed comatose in the room since being subjected to a brutal sexual assault in 1973 by a ward boy, who tried to throttle her with a dog’s chain, leaving her in a permanently vegetative state.
Aruna, 66, who passed away yesterday, had become the face of a debate on euthanasia in India. The Supreme Court had, on a petition seeking mercy killing for Aruna, allowed ‘passive euthanasia’ wherein life support to a patient in permanently vegetative state could be withdrawn.
Despite the court’s verdict, the nurses had decided to carry on with their epic fight. The nurses, who took care of Aruna, sponge-bathing and feeding her, and ensuring she got not a single bed sore through the 42-year ordeal, have broached the idea of converting the room into a memorial with the hospital authorities.
“Yes, it is true that some nurses wish that there be a memorial for Aruna. For the time being, we have kept her photo in the room. However, no final decision has been taken on the ‘memorial’ idea,” KEM dean Dr Avinash Supe told PTI here today.
“An alternative could be to name the room after Aruna and continue with patient care in the room. That way, we won’t be wasting a room where patients could be treated,” Supe said. Today, the room where generations of nurses waged a grim battle for Aruna’s survival is without the routine hustle and bustle, with only a photo of Aruna reminding the visitors about the passing away of its sole occupant of four decades.
The nurses will miss wishing Aruna on her birthday which falls on June 1, said a hospital official.