Published: 22nd May 2021
Welcome to Reason: Should one sacrifice unto the end, for real?
Narayan Dabhalkar, an 85-year-old COVID-19 patient, who voluntarily gave up his hospital bed in Nagpur to a younger patient on May 1, 2021
“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness.”
– (Oliver) Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), American self-help author best known for his book Think and
Grow Rich, among the ten best-selling self-help books of all times
Self-sacrifice comes in many avatars — we have all heard several stories. But generally, it stops short of sacrificing one’s life. Against the backdrop of the relentless death-dealing march of COVID-19 is a recent news of extreme self-sacrifice coming from Nagpur. But first, the facts as reported by the media, including The New Indian Express.
Narayan Dabhalkar, an 85-year-old COVID-19 patient, who voluntarily gave up his hospital bed in Nagpur to a younger patient on May 1, 2021, saying: “I have lived my life,” died at his home on May 4. He had been admitted to Indira Gandhi Government Hospital in Nagpur a few days earlier after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Reading into Dabhalkar’s story makes for some compelling material. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), he was admitted to the hospital after he tested positive and he got a bed after a great amount of time and effort.
It was then that he saw a woman looking for a bed to save her 40-year-old COVID-infected husband. The hospital authorities refused to admit him because there were no empty beds. When he saw her break down, he decided to vacate his bed for her husband.
While giving up his bed, he reportedly said, “I am 85. I have lived my life. Saving the life of a young man is more important. Their children are young. Please give my bed to them.” The hospital administration asked him for a statement in writing. He wrote: “I am voluntarily emptying my bed for another patient.”
Despite dipping oxygen levels, Dabhalkar went against the medical advice of the doctors and opted for a discharge. “We rushed him to IGR when his oxygen levels dipped on April 22. We got a bed after great effort but he was back home in a couple of hours. My father said he would prefer to spend his last moments with us. He also told us about the young patient,” Dabhalkar’s daughter was quoted in the media as saying.
Alert readers may note the sense of resignation and acceptance in her quote above. Shouldn’t he have consulted his family before he took a life or death decision? The family had struggled hard to secure a bed for him. Also, was it for him to decide to surrender his bed to X patient whose family he pitied and sought to redeem? The hospital might have its own queue of deserving patients to fill any bed falling vacant. Are there any more issues that need to be taken into account beyond hailing and admiring the sacrifice Dabhalkar made and his rationale?