While the nation has repeatedly saluted frontline healthcare workers for their service during the coronavirus pandemic, one doctor in Tamil Nadu was robbed of dignity even in death.
A 55-year-old neurosurgeon Dr Simon Hercules succumbed to COVID-19 at a private hospital in Chennai on Sunday. Dr Hercules was on ventilator support after he developed health complications post testing positive. He suffered a cardiac arrest and succumbed to it at 6:15 pm on Sunday at a private hospital.
According to medical authorities, he had likely contracted the infection while treating patients.
The body was passed onto his family and doctors who headed to the Kilpauk cemetery to bury him there. Locals in the area had already received a message and were waiting there in protest, determined to not let the burial proceed.
The ambulance carrying Dr Hercules then made its way to a cemetery in Anna Nagar. There, the people accompanying the body including his family, friends and the ambulance driver met with protests by the locals.
The mob there hit them with stones and logs. The ambulance driver and sanitation worker were injured and the vehicle’s windshield was completely broken.
The family had to run to escape the mob but another friend of Dr Hercules managed to recover the body and drive off to a different location.
Dr Hercules was later buried with police security, with a friend and two people for help, without his family to bid him goodbye.
A friend of Dr Hercules, Dr Bhagyaraj released a video in which he shared about the trauma they faced in giving their friend a decent burial.
“Is this what doctors have to face? Is this how the public repays us? I’m ashamed to release the video. We were unable to save him and we couldn’t bury him. Will his soul rest in peace?” a teary-eyed Dr Bhagyaraj can be heard saying in the video.
Heartbreaking testimony of Dr. Bhagyaraj who worked with Dr. Simon Hercules in New hope hospital Chennai. Dr.Simon died of #Covid19 yesterday and some people denied for burial. Doctors are the Frontliners in fighting corona and helping people. They deserve proper burial atleast. pic.twitter.com/BRWuS80QTD
— Mr. J (@JaiJerish) April 20, 2020
The Chennai Police have arrested 20 people from Anna Nagar who were involved in Sunday’s attack.
Various doctors’ associations have condemned the unfortunate incident and have requested the government to ensure such incidents do not happen again. They have requested the government to ensure people are made aware that the infection does not spread if the body is buried as due care and protocols are followed in burial and cremation.
On April 13, a similar incident took place in Ambattur where a doctor who died in Nellore was denied cremation at the local crematorium as locals gathered in protest.
After multiple incidents of local residents protesting against the burial of COVID-19 patients, the DMDK party has offered a part of their college campus on the outskirts of Chennai as a burial ground for patients.
In a statement, DMDK chief Vijayakanth said a part of the Andal Azhagar College owned by them will be given for burying patients who die of COVID-19.