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Indian rape victim dies after 42 years in coma

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Indian nurses and hospital staff gather to pay respect near the body of nurse Aruna Shanbaug in Mumbai, May 18, 2015

Indian nurses and hospital staff gather to pay respect near the body of nurse Aruna Shanbaug in Mumbai, May 18, 2015 PHOTO: presstv.ir

AN INDIAN nurse who spent 42 years in a persistent vegetative state after being raped and strangled has died.

Aruna Shanbaug was left with severe brain damage and paralysed after the 1973 attack by a ward attendant in the Mumbai hospital where she worked.

She was fed through the nose to keep her alive but developed pneumonia six days ago, the hospital told the BBC.

Her case sparked a debate about India’s euthanasia laws. The Supreme Court had rejected a plea to allow her to die.

“Ms Shanbaug died at 08:30am yesterday. She was admitted to the intensive care unit and put on ventilator support,” a spokesman at Mumbai’s KEM hospital said.

The nurse was 25 years old when she was sodomised by a KEM hospital cleaner who strangled her with metal chains and left her to die on 27 November 1973.

She survived, but spent the rest of her life in hospital, force fed twice a day.

“My broken, battered baby bird finally flew away. And she gave India a passive euthanasia law before doing so,” journalist and author Pinki Virani, who wrote Aruna’s Story, a book on the nurse’s plight, told the BBC.

Twitter reaction: ‘Her pain will always shame us’

There is an outpouring of sympathy for Aruna Shanbaug on Twitter. Many feel that she “should have been allowed to go much earlier”. Most Twitter users also agree that the absence of the “right to die” in India’s legal system compounded her misery.

One Twitter user says Shanbaug’s case “represents everything that is wrong with India’s society”.

Others highlight that she was brutally raped and then had to live in a vegetative state for 42 years because several campaigns in support of euthanasia “just fell on deaf years”.


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