Dr Simon Hercules
Doctor Simon Hercules, a neurosurgeon who was treating coronavirus patients in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, died after contracting the disease Image Credit: Twitter

On April 20, doctor Simon Hercules, a neurosurgeon who was treating coronavirus patients in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, died after contracting the disease. Far from getting a proper burial, his family and friends were beaten up while trying to do so.

Dr Simon’s colleague and friend Dr Pradeep, in an April 21 interview with popular Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, shared the ordeal they faced while trying to bury the 55-year-old neurosurgeon’s body.

Twitter users and journalists took to the micro blogging platform to share reports of how the medic in Chennai, was denied dignity in death. Many said it was “heartbreaking” and that “no one deserved this”, sort of treatment.

Referring to Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s #thalibajao initiative to thank healthcare staff and frontline workers, @nuts2406 posted: “What is the use of banging vessels and lighting candles to pay tribute to the medical fraternity, when a doctor who contracts COVID-19 while treating patients isn't even allowed the dignity of a decent burial. What a shame …”

In the video that was posted on YouTube, Dr Pradeep explained how Dr Simon passed away at the Apollo Hospital in Vanagaram in Chennai on Sunday after been admitted in early April. The 55-year-old neurosurgeon had been exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Doctors who worked with him say he may have contracted the virus from a patient.

What happened…

Indian news website, The News Minute reported: “At 9pm on Sunday, his body was handed over to the family, and they were initially planning to take an ambulance to a burial ground in TB Chatram in Kilpauk for the last rites. Dr Simon’s wife and son were accompanied by Dr Pradeep, a few other doctors who had worked closely with the deceased, corporation officials and two ambulance drivers."

Dr Pradeep said: “We were told not to head to TP Chatram because a crowd of over 100 people had gathered near the burial ground in a bid to stop us. According to the police, local civic workers had informed the residents about the burial that was planned. And, frightened by rumours that this could lead to the spread of the virus, people in the neighbourhood had gathered to protest.”

The ambulance carrying Dr Simon’s body was then diverted to the Velangadu cemetery to avoid any altercations. However, at this burial ground, the deceased and his family and friends were met with sticks and stones.

“They damaged the ambulance and hit the drivers on the head with logs. They hit the doctors and the sanitary inspectors as well,” said the orthopedic doctor.

Staff were forced to flee the spot.

Another colleague, Dr Bhagyaraj, shared his experience in a Twitter video explaining: “It was so bad, that we were forced to leave his body there and flee.”

Dr Pradeep managed to get Dr Simon’s body into the ambulance with the help of two ambulance drivers and leave. They were profusely bleeding and were dropped off at Kilpauk Medical College for treatment.

In the video interview, Dr Pradeep is seen pleading for security of doctors.

The News Minute reported: “Dr Simon was the Managing Director of New Hope Hospital in Chennai. has helped hundreds of patients in his lifetime… His family couldn’t even say a final goodbye to the doctor.”

You Tube user Suyash Savji replied: “We've failed as a society.”

And, highlighting the recent mob culture, Gaurav Kapoor wrote: “Sad... what has this country become? Full of hatred and inhumanity... this mob culture is sickening.”

Doctor’s family harassed in Maharashtra

In another incident reported by Indian news websites, in the state of Maharashtra, the Thane unit of Indian Medical Association on Tuesday alleged that residents of a complex in Maharashtra humiliated the wife and daughters of a doctor who tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday.

In a release, the IMA said the residents refused to allow the family of the doctor, who stays in the complex and runs a hospital in Vartak Nagar, to undergo home quarantine despite the flat being a spacious one.

"The residents humiliated the wife and daughters of this leading physician who tested positive on Sunday. They wanted the family to shift to a quarantine facility of Thane Municipal Corporation in Bhayander Pada. However, the samples of the wife and daughters tested negative and they were shifted back home by us," said IMA Thane president Dr Dinkar Desai, according to a report on ndtv.com.

"It is unfortunate that society is not respecting doctors who are on the frontline to combat the coronavirus outbreak," he added.

Indian-origin doctor honoured in the US

In stark contrast, in the US, Dr Uma Madhusudan, a Mysore-origin doctor, was recently honoured in front of her house in South Windsor, Connecticut with a parade.

Social media posts of the parade that went viral, say it was for Dr. Madhusudan’s outstanding work to help victims afflicted with coronavirus.

Dr. Uma Rani Madhusudana, is reportedly an Internist who works for Hartford Healthcare, at their Midstate Medical Center, in Middletown, Connecticut.