This morning, Aruna Shanbaug, the comatose patient who was left in a vegetative state after a brutal sexual attack in 1973, died. While those who cared for her at the hospital are grieving her death, others believe she has finally been relieved of the burden of her inactive and unresponsive body. In case you aren’t aware of her heart-wrenching story, here are the five things you need to know about her:


1. Working at the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM) in Mumbai as a junior nurse, Aruna was engaged to be married to a medic at her workplace, when she was attacked by a ward boy on 27th November 1973. Later identified as Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki, the attacker choked her with a dog chain while he brutally raped her and the asphyxiation cut off the oxygen supply to her brain, leaving her in a vegetative state since.


2. 26 years-old at the time, Aruna was found in the basement, where the assault had taken place, 11 hours later. She was found to be left with a brain stem contusion injury, cervical cord injury and cortically blind. To save the victim from social stigma, the hospital officials presented this as a robbery and an attempted murder case after which the attacker was just sentenced for 14 years for assault and robbery.


The nurses at KEM celebrate the Supreme Court's verdict on Aruna Shanbaug  Picture By: The Hindu
The nurses at KEM celebrate the Supreme Court’s verdict on Aruna Shanbaug
Picture By: The Hindu


3. Post Aruna’s attack and the repercussions it had had on her health; the nurses in Mumbai went on a strike demanding better working conditions for the nurses. In addition to this, when The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, planned to move Aruna out of the hospital, the nurses protested and the plans were eventually cancelled.

These nurses have cared for their colleague as one of their own and reports state that in the 42- years Aruna stayed there, she did not have a single bed sore.


4. In 2011, a journalist named Pinki Virani, filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India to stop force feeding Aruna Shanbaug. The court set up a three-member medical panel to examine the victim and found that she met “most of the criteria of being in a permanent vegetative state“. The petition was later declined but led to a landmark judgement that legalized passive euthanasia in India.


5. Suffering from pneumonia and on ventilator support, Aruna Shanbaug finally died of natural causes on the morning of Monday, 18th of May at the age of 67. The hospital is currently trying to find any close relatives of Aruna but since she had been a resident of KEM for the last 42 years and was cared for like family by the nurses, the last rites will be performed by the hospital staff.


[Featured Picture Courtesy: The Indian Express]