On October 11, the National Medical Commission (NMC) demanded a detailed report from the Sree Mookambika Institute of Medical Sciences (SMIMS) in Tamil Nadu, a week after the death of Dr. Sugirtha Sivakumar, a 27-year-old postgraduate resident.
The suicide note from the young doctor contained shocking allegations of both mental and physical torment, as well as sexual harassment. These allegations were directed at professors and peers within the Anaesthesia Department of the college.
In a press release, NMC issued a statement following a meeting, expressing commitment to a detailed investigation and justice for the victim. The statement emphasized the responsibility for colleges to provide a secure and supportive environment for their students. In addition, the commission also instructed the college to submit a detailed report on the matter.
Dr. Sugirtha Sivakumar, a postgraduate student at the Sree Mookambika Institute of Medical Sciences (SMIMS) in Tamil Nadu, tragically took her own life in her hostel accommodation on October 6th by injecting herself with a muscle relaxant. A purported suicide note was found, attributing her actions to alleged harassment and abuse. The note accused three seniors, singling out Dr. Paramasivan for sexual harassment and both physical and mental abuse, while Dr. Harish and Dr. Preethi were mentioned for their toxic behaviors. The note also included a heartfelt message to her father and a plea for empathy and support for those in despair.
The note said, "Sorry, Appa, I love you the most.” Another sentence, inscribed in green, says, “Even those in despair can appear joyful. Show kindness, reserve judgment, and support them.”
The Tamil Nadu Medical Students' Association (TNMSA) expressed their condolences over the loss of Dr. Sugirtha and urged for a thorough investigation into the matter. In a statement, they also highlighted their earlier request to the Health Secretary to establish a Medical Students Welfare Board to address issues related to mental health, sexual harassment, and student welfare. The association emphasized the need for action to prevent any further loss of medical students or postgraduates.
Sexual harassment is on the rise among doctors' profession. Recently, in an interview with BBC News, female surgeons working within the NHS shared their deeply concerning experiences of sexual harassment. The findings of an analysis conducted by the University of Exeter, the University of Surrey, and the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, which were subsequently shared with BBC News, indicated that nearly two-thirds of the women surgeons who participated in the study reported being subjected to sexual harassment. Shockingly, within the past five years, one-third of them disclosed having experienced sexual assault from their colleagues.
The tragic case of Dr. Sugirtha Sivakumar in Tamil Nadu, a BBC News interview of female victim surgeons, and many more such cases shed light on the fact that the medical profession is also not immune to such issues.
Akanksha Nigam, Bachelor of Pharmacy (final year), Uttar Pradesh, on MedBound (a medical networking platform for medical professionals and students), shared her opinion on the sexual harassment issue in the medical profession. She described such incidents as unfortunate and shared that during her internship at a private hospital, she came to know about a few cases of harassment among medical staff working there.
Sexual harassment among doctors is crucial for fostering a safe and inclusive healthcare environment. It not only protects the well-being of healthcare professionals but also ensures the delivery of high-quality patient care.
(Input From Various Media Sources)