Probe panel lawyer accuses two senior Tamil Nadu civil servants of “botching” Jayalalithaa’s treatment.
Bengaluru: More than two years after the death former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa at a Chennai hospital, a new controversy has erupted surrounding the circumstances of her medical treatment.
The lawyer of the panel investigating the circumstances of her death has alleged that Jayalalithaa could have been saved had she been taken abroad for treatment.
Jayalalithaa passed away at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, in December 2016 after an over two-month-long stay at the medical facility, where she was reportedly admitted with fever and dehydration.
ThePrint has accessed a copy of the submission made by advocate Mohammed Jafarullah Khan, the standing counsel for the Justice A. Arumughaswamy Commission, to the panel.
In it, he has squarely accused two senior officials, Tamil Nadu health secretary J. Radhakrishnan and the then chief secretary Raja Mohan Rao, of “botching” her line of treatment.
Radhakrishnan, a well-regarded IAS officer known for his exceptional work in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, has refuted the allegations that he did not allow appropriate treatment to Jayalalithaa and was against taking her abroad for specialised treatment.
‘Did not inform government’
Khan has claimed that Radhakrishnan, despite being aware of the former chief minister’s serious condition, did not intimate any state cabinet minister, who could have taken the decision to airlift her for better treatment abroad with the help of the central government.
According to Khan, Radhakrishnan had admitted to the Arumughaswamy Commission that he was against airlifting Jayalalithaa as it would be seen as a “disgrace for doctors of India”.
Alleging “collusion” between the health secretary and Apollo Hospitals, Khan said the latter had failed to conduct an “angiogram” (generally to detect blockage in arteries) on Jayalalithaa despite the fact that three senior doctors from various hospitals had suggested so.
“Failure to take an angio-test or angiogram in time led to a deterioration of her health,” he added.
Khan said the team at Apollo had withheld CPR, an emergency procedure for resuscitation, from the former chief minister for nearly 15 minutes after she is said to have suffered a cardiac arrest on the eve of her death on 5 December.
As for Rao, Khan alleged that the former chief secretary had given false testimony before the commission that he had intimated the state government about the medical procedures being conducted on Jayalalithaa through certain documents he signed with her aide V.K. Sasikala.
However, the current chief secretary, Khan added, had informed the commission that such documents had not been submitted.
Contacted by The Print, Khan refused to comment, saying that the matter was ‘sub judice’.
Radhakrishnan, meanwhile, has dismissed the allegations against him as “unfounded, baseless and wild”.
Speaking to PTI, Radhakrishnan said, “These allegations have caused tremendous stress and mental agony to me… in reality I have only discharged my duties to the best of ability.”
Apollo Hospitals, in a press statement, stridently opposed the allegations.
They said Jayalalithaa was tended to by a highly experienced team of doctors, who monitored her cardiac status on a daily basis. They added that the claim that “three senior doctors advised an angiogram” was incorrect.
“The Apollo team of doctors, including the cardiologist and Dr Richard Beale, did not think it wise to rush into an angiogram,” they added.
The hospital also dismissed the CPR claim as completely misguided and misleading.
“Apollo has produced enough medical evidence in the commission that there was no brain-death at that time, as imputed in the petition,” it added.
Chennai-based senior journalist and political commentator R.K. Radhakrishnan said health secretary Radhakrishnan and Rao were being made “scapegoats” in the issue.
“It was always Jayalalithaa’s desire to stay in India and this was known to all,” he added. “There was not much scope to take her outside as the patient herself was unwilling. It is easy to attribute motive. In this particular case, talking about the possibility of taking her out for treatment is only to gain mileage,” he said.
“Everybody is being questioned but the real stakeholders. Be it (then union minister) Venkaiah Naidu who was stationed in Chennai during the time she underwent treatment, the then governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, present chief minister E. Palaniswami and deputy CM O. Panneerselvam and Jayalalithaa’s personal medical adviser KS Shivakumar are the ones who can give the right picture,” he added. “Barring them, everybody else is becoming a scapegoat in this issue.”