PG resident Dr Sugirtha Sivakumar's suicide: Accused named in suicide note arrested

Dr Paramasivan, who is the Head of Department at the private medical college, was accused of sexual harassment by Dr Sugirtha in her suicide note
Read details here | (Photo: Edex Live)
Read details here | (Photo: Edex Live)

A week after Dr Sugirtha Sivakumar, a 27-year-old resident doctor from the Sree Mookambika Institute of Medical Science in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari died by suicide, the police made an arrest in relation to the case.

Dr Paramasivan, who is the Head of the Department at the private medical college, was named in Dr Sugirtha's suicide note and was accused of sexual harassment as well as mental abuse by the deceased. The professor was arrested on Friday, October 13, by the Kulasekharam police in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for abetment of suicide.

As per reports, the private medical college had also suspended Dr Paramasivan and two other doctors, Dr Harish and Dr Preethi, who were also named by the student in the suicide note as having shown 'senior toxicity' on Thursday, October 12.

"Running pillar to post desperately seeking answers or support after losing Dr Sugirtha to sexual harassment and mental abuse has not been easy on the family and friends at all. The arrest news comes as the first sign of some hope that justice will be delivered," shared Dr Prathibha, Professor, Physiology at a private college in Chennai, who is also one of the core team members of the group who has been fighting for justice of Dr Sugirtha. Dr Prathibha was also one of the professors of  Dr Sugirtha when the latter was pursuing her MBBS. 

"I understand the journey ahead is long and tedious. But the family and friends are willing to fight for Dr Sugirtha and all other medical students across the country," she went on to share.

Dr Prathibha also thanked the Government of Tamil Nadu, the National Medical Commission (NMC) and all other organisations for staging protests plus, friends and well-wishers for their support so far.

The arrest seems to have come hours after protest demonstrations by the Tamil Nadu Medical Students Association (TNMSA) members and students from Thanjavur Medical College and Theni Medical College in Tamil Nadu. The protest was staged at 4 pm on Friday, October 13, during which several medical students formed a human chain pressuring the authorities to take action.

“The protest escalated the urgency for making the arrest as the students put pressure on the authorities. Several student organisations, doctors’ associations and political parties supported us. Only after people took this into their own hands and put pressure on the authorities, could it happen. It is a victory for all Tamil people,” said Dr Keerthy Varman, President, TNMSA.

Safeguard doctor’ mental health

In her suicide note, Dr Sugirtha wrote that she took the extreme step due to sexual and mental harassment by the HoD Dr Paramasivan, as well as senior toxicity by other PG doctors. The 27-year-old was also overworked and had to work for up to 20 hours on some days.

Now, the suicide case has renewed the discussion over the mental health and long working hours of medical students and PG resident doctors.

While the accused has been arrested by the police, now the medical students are demanding long-term measures to safeguard the mental health and well-being of PG resident doctors.

“The Tamil Nadu government should give an explanation for this and state what actions would be taken to avoid any such incident in future. It is shameful that even today, women cannot practise a career of their choice freely and safely. Necessary steps should be taken by the Health and Welfare Board,” added Dr Keerthy Varman.

On October 12, Dr GR Ravindranath from the Doctors' Association for Social Equality (DASE) met the health secretary and submitted a letter demanding the establishment of a student welfare board in medical colleges to monitor the mental health of medical students and PG doctors.

Meanwhile, the National Medical Commission (NMC) also issued a letter to the college seeking a detailed report in relation to the suicide case.

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