HIV positive woman’s last wish remains unfulfilledOctober 30th, 2008 - 11:59 am ICT by IANS
Kolkata, Oct 30 (IANS) The “last wish” of Mawii, a 22-year-old HIV positive patient from Mizoram, to die in the arms of her parents at home, remained unfulfilled as she died here while changing flights on way from Bangalore to Aizawl, sparking an argument between her friends and Air India.Mawii, a terminal patient, was under treatment at the Bowring hospital, Bangalore, and was flown to Kolkata Monday morning after she expressed her wish to die at her home.
She, however, died at the NSC Bose International Airport here Tuesday, sparking a controversy with a Lok Sabha member accusing Air India of being ‘inhuman’ for refusing to let her board the Aizawl flight and fulfil her last wish.
Air India, on the other hand, said it had gone by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules which do not allow airlines to carry passengers who are sick and have not been certified to fly.
“She was studying in Bangalore. She comes from a very poor family. On Sunday, the Mizo community leaders decided to fly her off to Mizoram and so we pooled money and booked her in an Air India flight to Kolkata Monday morning,” Lok Sabha MP H.T. Sangliana, himself a Mizo, told IANS from Bangalore.
Sangliana, who won from Bangalore North in the last Lok Sabha polls, said Bowring hospital had given a fit-to-fly certificate to the girl, who had no problem during the 140-minute flght to Kolkata.
“Her connecting flight to Aizawl was at 11 a.m. But the problem started when on seeing her condition Air India refused to let her board the flight. I pleaded with them from Bangalore saying it was her last wish and the Airlines won’t be held responsible if something happened to her on board the flight.
“They asked for a fresh medical certificate and Bowring immediately gave one on my request. But Air India refused to accept that,” said a livid Sangliana.
Instead, Mawii was admitted to a nursing home, but financial constraints forced her companions to take her to Mizoram House here.
The companions booked her on Tuesday’s Kolkata-Aizawl Kingfisher Airlines flight, but she collapsed and died at the airport itself a few minutes before boarding the plane.
“It was inhuman on the part of the airlines to deny her a seat by citing the rules. They should have bent the rules for her as she only wanted to die among relatives at home. Nobody would have held the airlines responsible,” Sangliana said.
Air India Executive Director, Corporate Communications, Jitender Bhargava said Air India had only “applied the rule applicable to airlines that does not allow them to carry passengers who are sick and have not been certified to fly”.
“It was not Air India’s decision to disallow her to travel. It was the considered opinion of the Airports Authority of India doctor, the Nursing Home’s medical panel and the Mizoram House medico, all of whom decided not to issue fit-to-fly certificate. They had all recommended urgent hospitalisation of the deceased,” Bhargava said.
An Air India source said the patient became sick at the airport Monday, following which the medical opinion was taken.
While conceding that the deceased passenger’s desire to fly to Aizwal, “unfortunately, can be termed ‘last wish’ in retrospect”, Bhargava said “no airline could have had a premonition that she would die in the next 24 hours”.
He said the airline’s first and foremost responsibility was to help the patient get proper treatment to save her life, and argued “had she been admitted to the hospital, as was being insisted by doctors, she may have still been in our midst”.
“The relatives of the deceased should in hindsight now introspect whether a fatal error of judgement on their part is actually responsible for the tragedy rather than blame the airline,” he added.
Sangliana refused to buy the argument. “In any case, the girl was about to die. And her companions could not afford the luxury of treating her at the nursing home due to poor financial condition. But it was far more important to take her to Mizoram in the lap of her parents where she would have died in peace.”
Sangliana said Mawii’s condition should not be confused with that of a heart or kidney patient who has hopes of living. “Here everyone knew she would die. And the airlines should have shown some sympathy.”
Sangliana demanded that the DGCA amend the rules and adopt a more humanitarian approach.
The girl’s body was kept embalmed in Kolkata Tuesday. “Wednesday morning her friends again pooled money, bought a coffin and sent the body to Mizoram,” said Sangliana.