Pinki Virani: The ‘next friend’ ‘Nurses and her family had lost interest, I had to do something’
Pinki Virani, who moved the Supreme Court as Aruna Shanbaug‘s “next friend” in 2011 pleading that the latter be allowed to die, spoke to The Indian Express Monday recalling her association of three decades with her. Excerpts:
“I first met Aruna 12 years after the ‘incident’ happened in 1973. I like to call it an ‘incident’. I remember my mother had told me to go and see the state in which Aruna lived. Since I was a journalist, I managed to sneak inside and I met her in the room on the hospital’s ground floor. Then, I just started visiting her regularly. I really don’t know why, I just did.
“Over the years, I also wrote news reports in the paper when her room was dirty and cobwebs were stretching everywhere. Media attention helped and they would clean up her room. Over the years, the deans changed and the nurses changed and they started losing interest in her.
“I approached Bombay High Court for legal custody of Aruna. With my husband, we decided to do a full body scan, MRI, CT Scan, and brain scan, whatever could be done to understand what actually happened in her brain. Since Aruna was no more used to the sunlight, we decided to take her for all tests to a private hospital at 8 pm. I still remember, an hour later, the doctor-in-charge revoked the permission. She said, ‘What if something happens to her?’ I asked, ‘You mean what if she dies?’ When she said yes, I told her, ‘She is a breathing dead person already.’
“The more I got involved with her, the more I discovered about her case. There were things that had happened to her that should have never happened at her workplace. I asked all the doctors and nurses to at least come file an FIR. They all refused. Finally, a police officer agreed. He was the one to file an FIR.
“In 1997, when I started researching for my book, I visited her family and cousins across India. None of them was ready to take responsibility for her. My husband and I realised we needed to do something. We approached the Supreme Court in 2009. While she did not get mercy killing, she led the way to legalisation of passive euthanasia. She was one brave woman.”
Source:: Indian Express