A baby boy in India who was pronounced dead a few hours after birth but then was found to be alive and wriggling on the way to his own funeral has died — a tragic end to a story that has cast a harsh light on one of the country’s elite private hospitals.
Now Max Hospital is being investigated by police and a panel of medical experts, the doctors who delivered the baby boy and his stillborn twin have been fired, and concerned Indians are fixated on a simple question: How did this happen?
The family’s nightmare began Nov. 30 at the upscale hospital in New Delhi, whose website says it offers “state of art technology” during labor to guarantee the best outcome for both mother and baby.
The twins’ mother — six months pregnant at the time and experiencing extreme pain — had been referred to Max Hospital by another facility, according to the Times of India.
Doctors A.P. Mehta and Vishal Gupta ultimately told the anxious parents that the mother needed surgery. She was bleeding, and the babies’ chances of surviving were dwindling.
At 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, the woman delivered a baby boy. Twelve minutes later, she delivered a stillborn girl.
But the surviving baby’s condition deteriorated, apparently, and doctors pronounced him dead at 1 p.m., the newspaper reported.
Doctors placed the babies in a plastic bag and handed them to their father, who headed to the crematorium. On the way there, he made a chilling discovery, according to the BBC. The bag was moving.
The baby boy was whisked to a nearby medical facility, where he was treated until his death late Tuesday.
Now medical officials are trying to determine whether his death was preventable — and what led to the hospital’s mistake.
Among the early findings of the medical panel set up by the New Delhi government to determine what happened: The delivery doctors didn’t do electrocardiogram tracings to evaluate the baby’s heart, according to NDTV. The procedure is designed to detect the tiny electrical impulses put out by the organ.
The two doctors involved were fired by the hospital, which is privately run. New Delhi police collected records from the hospital and are reviewing any relevant video.
Max Healthcare said the firings represent a “strict action” but should not be viewed as a finding of fault against the physicians.
“We are shaken and concerned at this rare incident,” the hospital said in a statement, according to CNN.
In a statement to the Hindu newspaper, Max Healthcare declined to comment about the electrocardiogram allegations:
“Media flashes indicate that the said report is preliminary. We would like to thoroughly review the final report when we receive it before commenting. In the meantime, we are fully cooperating with all relevant authorities on this issue.”
The relevant authorities, like many other Indians, were incensed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that he had ordered an inquiry. And Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said it is a case of “shocking criminal negligence.”
If the hospital is found guilty, he told the New Indian Express, its medical license could be canceled.
The medical board investigating the case is expected to release its report next week.
“Once the report comes out, toughest action will be taken,” Jain said.