Rape victim's condition worsens, government defends Singapore shift

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 28, 2012 16:47 hrs

Singapore/New Delhi: The condition of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist who was brutally gang-raped in New Delhi and and is fighting for her life in a hospital here has "taken a turn for the worse", a hospital official said Friday.

Mount Elizabeth Hospital chief executive officer Kelvin Loh told the Straits Times that the woman's condition has "taken a turn for the worse" as of 9 p.m. Friday.

"Her vital signs are deteriorating with signs of severe organ failure," Loh was quoted as saying in a statement.

"This is despite doctors fighting for her life including putting her on maximum artificial ventilation support, optimal antibiotic doses as well as stimulants which maximise her body's capability to fight infections," he said.

Loh earlier said the woman, who was taken in an air ambulance from New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital to Singapore, "is currently struggling against the odds, and fighting for her life".

Left virtually for dead with her male friend on the road by the six men who raped her in a moving bus, she was so grievously injured that her intestines had to be taken out.

The headline-grabbing gang-rape has sparked outrage in India and has goaded the top leadership into action with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi promising quick justice. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Friday announced that her government will launch a round-the-clock women's helpline Monday which will be operational from her residence.

Amid questions over the decision to shift the victim to Singapore in an extremely critical condition, the government took pains to clarify that it was purely a medical decision and rejected any political intention behind it.

As the victim battled the odds in the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, 12 days after being brutally tortured and raped in the Indian capital on the night of Dec 16, she continued to occupy mindspace back home - for the people and the leadership.

Sonia Gandhi joined Manmohan Singh in promising quick justice and saying there would be no Happy New Year greetings for India's ruling party.

All the six perpetrators have been arrested. The shocking rape has triggered an unprecedented uproar in India.

"You have my assurance that our government is committed to bringing the guilty to justice as soon as possible," the prime minister told reporters at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi on the occasion of the party's foundation day.

Wishing the victim speedy recovery, Gandhi said no time should be lost in punishing those responsible for the crime.

"Our wish is that she recovers and comes back to us... and no time is lost in bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice," Gandhi said in her first public statement on the incident that has led to searching questions on the status of women in India, crimes against women and the legal framework to address incidents of sexual assault.

Gandhi said the party was not celebrating New Year's Day due to the sad event.

"Dec 28 is close to the New Year. Normally, we wish each other but not this time as our thoughts are with the young woman fighting for her life after a barbarous attack on her," she said.

Manmohan Singh said a panel headed by a former chief justice of India had been set up to suggest changes in the law to make punishment more stringent, and another headed by a former Delhi high court judge to look into the lapses behind the ghastly crime.

The prime minister and the government assured that the victim was being given the best possible medical care and rejected speculation about any political motive behind shifting her to Singapore.

"It was done for medical purposes. It was purely a medical decision take by the doctors. It was not done due to political reasons," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde added that doctors dealing with trauma cases were also consulted along with Naresh Trehan. "She is still critical today. We will give her the best of treatment," he said.

All this, however, has not silenced questions raised by the medical community in the Indian capital.

"I can't understand the logic behind it, or rather, it is unusual to transfer the girl from Delhi to Singapore when the patient has suffered a cardiac arrest, as I have been informed by the media," Samiran Nundy, chairman, department of surgical gastroenterology and organ transplantation, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told IANS.

Nundy also said that in case of an intestinal transplant, the chances of survival are five years in 60 percent of the cases, and one year in 80 percent of the cases.

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