Mumbai Nurse Aruna Shanbaug Dies After 42-year Coma That Followed her Rape

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File photo of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug who was in coma for 42 years after being raped in the hospital she worked in


Mumbai:  Aruna Shanbaug, a Mumbai nurse who was raped in 1973 by a ward boy at the hospital she worked in, has died after being in a coma for 42 years. She was 68.

Doctors at Mumbai's state-run King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital had said Ms Shanbaug was suffering from pneumonia and was on ventilator support.

She died at 8.30 am and was cremated this evening; KEM hospital dean Avinash Supe and Ms Shanbaug's nephew lit the pyre.

Aruna Shanbaug was a junior nurse in her 20s at KEM hospital when she was brutally assaulted and raped by the ward boy, Sohanlal Bharta Valmiki, who she had scolded for stealing food that was meant for stray animals adopted by the hospital.

She had just finished her shift, and was in the basement of the hospital changing before leaving for home. Her attacker had been lying in wait. He sodomised her and then strangled her with a dog chain, cutting supply of oxygen to her brain.

She was discovered in the basement 11 hours later, blind and suffering from a severe brain stem injury.

Her attacker was freed after a seven-year jail sentence.

Left bedridden, Aruna spent more than four decades being cared for by a team of doctors and nurses at the hospital. So thorough was the care that in all that time, Ms Shanbaug did not get a single bed sore.

"Nurses would clean, feed, change her clothes, not mechanically. They would talk her... While trying to clean her mouth, by chance she would bite a finger," recalls Dr Pragna Pai, former Dean at KEM Hospital.

Aruna, she said, loved fish and mangoes.

Author Pinky Virani, who wrote the book 'Aruna's Story,' had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the force-feeing of Aruna, to "allow her to die with dignity."

In a landmark judgement in 2011, the Supreme Court rejected Ms Virani's petition, but decided that life support could be legally removed for some terminally ill patients in a ruling that allowed "passive euthanasia" for the first time.

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