It really happened more than 20 years ago at my Alma mater, Calicut Medical College.
It was around 5 pm and I was walking through the hospital corridor when I heard a huge commotion. I could see people scurrying all around in panic. I asked a Hospital attender about the reason.
“Sir, a Rabies patient somehow got out of his cell and is roaming around the Hospital. Everybody is afraid he will attack.
“Did he attack or bite anybody?” I asked.
“No Sir, but you know how violent these patients can be”.
Do I really know? No I have not seen any violent Rabies patient. But folklores say these patients behave like dogs and bite everyone in sight.
Then I noticed hospital staff bringing big buckets of water and placing it in front of entrance to each ward. They were using their knowledge of science to prevent entry of the Rabies infected patient into their ward. They knew that Rabies patients do have fear of water [hydrophobia].
I was curious and wanted to see this man who was causing so much commotion. I found him standing just outside the hospital near the front gate.
He was not violent by any stretch of imagination. He looked tired and pale. His movements lacked any real purpose. He was sweating like anything and looked afraid.
In contrast the large crowd surrounding him looked and sounded very violent. They formed a circle around him. Most of them were shouting. Some were throwing stones at him. Others were gesticulating violently.
Crowd began to multiply enormously. The traffic got blocked. When the patient moved to one side the crowd sprang back with fear but more stones were coming. Some of the missiles found the target and he was bleeding from the forehead. I thought if no one intervened the patient would be stoned to death.
The Hospital Superintendent asked his staff to go and bring back the patient into the Hospital. No one was brave enough to obey the orders. So he called the Police. Few Constables came but still no one dared to go near the patient.
The patient it seemed was very confused. He could not understand why his fellow human beings were showing so much hate for him.
Now the Sub-Inspector of Police came. He had no choice but to confront this burning Law and Order issue in his jurisdiction. He started towards the patient with trembling legs. The patient it seemed felt good to see someone coming near him without any violent gesture.
The Inspector caught the patient with his hands. The patient might have been happy to feel a human touch after so long. He asked the Hospital Superintendent to give him some sedative so that he could be brought back to his cell.
The Superintendent ordered his staff to give a sedative injection. After a long discussion about whose duty it is to give the injection, a Doctor and a Staff nurse were forced to do it. They approached the patient timidly, with fear as the Inspector gave them confidence. The crowd was watching, strangely silent. The Nurse gave the injection in a jiffy and ran back.
The doctor waited impatiently for the sedative to work. Suddenly the patient gave a gasp and then stopped breathing. The doctor looked for a pulse and then gave a half-hearted thump on to the patient’s chest.
There were whispers all around. Is he dead? How did he die?
Now the Hospital Superintendent became brave enough to approach the patient. He asked for a stethoscope and a torch. After examining the patient he frowned and said
“He is dead, probably due to his Rabies and all this stress”.
The crowd also became brave enough to come near the dead body of that poor man. The Constables swung into action to keep them at bay. The lifeless body was soon taken inside the Hospital.
I thought it was the end of the day’s drama.
Suddenly I heard some slogan shouting from the crowd.
“Protest the inhuman killing of the poor patient!”
Then many people in the crowd began to form a procession with louder and louder slogans.
“Arrest those who killed the patient by lethal injection”
“Down with inhuman murderous Doctors!”
( The malayalam version of this article was published in this month’s Yukthiyugam, the rationalist magazine )