In India, questions over decision to treat rape victim overseas

Delhi gang rape

The decision to fly the victim of a gang rape that outraged India for treatment in Singapore made little medical sense as the woman was so severely injured that her death was all but inevitable, doctors say. The government, on the back foot after furious street protests and stinging criticism of authorities over the Dec. 16 rape in the capital, New Delhi, has struggled to defend its decision to send the 23-year-old physiotherapy student overseas. She died 48 hours later.

With a deadly infection seeping into her blood from damage done to her intestines during the assault, complicated by a cardiac arrest and damage to the brain, she was just clinging to life when she was flown 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from New Delhi to Singapore late on Dec. 26, doctors said.

"It was ethically and morally wrong to have taken her out, given that she was sinking and her chances of survival were next to zero at that stage," said a doctor at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which was advising the team treating the woman at a sister hospital across the street. "Such a thing raises false hopes in the minds of the family, the community. No doctor in his right mind would do this, unless you want to get the patient off your back," said the doctor, who declined to be identified, saying colleagues at the

government-run hospital who had spoken out had been warned of consequences in what has become a politically explosive case. The woman, who was assaulted by five men and a teenager on a

moving bus after a male companion was beaten unconscious, cannot be named under an Indian law that prohibits identifying victims of rape.

Another doctor who was consulted during the woman's care at New Delhi's Safdarjang hospital, where she was taken following the assault, said she had been getting the best possible treatment in India and the question of why she was shifted should be answered by the government.

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