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DOCTOR in the DOCK

DOCTOR in the DOCK

Isn�t the medical profession �satisfied� with the number of victims of medical miscarriage and negligence?

By Jayashika Padmasiri
Recently, news of doctors starting to kill patients in Sri Lanka, has caught the spotlight. Contrary to the general notion of doctors giving people a new lease of life, an incident at the Negombo General Hospital, sent shockwaves around Sri Lanka.

A Dr Sudarshana Jayasinghe was arrested for the alleged murder of a female patient, Chamila Dissanayake (22) working at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, after sexually harassing her. Many news items covered the incident. The Nation went in search of more details of the tragedy that befell this young girl.

Chamila Dissanayake was suspected of being murdered on Monday, while Dr Jayasinghe (32), a trainee provided with hostel facilities at the Negombo Hospital, was arrested the following morning, Tuesday, November 13, by the police, on a statement made by an eyewitness, a cleaning maid, M. Beatrice. She had seen the doctor forcibly dragging the patient towards a window on the 6th floor of the Negombo Hospital, after which the woman�s body was found on the ground. The victim had reportedly been pushed from the 6th floor. She died while being taken to the Colombo National Hospital.

According to police reports, the victim�s handbag, her pair of shoes, umbrella and underclothes were recovered from a cubicle next to the suspect doctor�s residence room on the 6th floor.

Director, Medical Superintendent, Negombo Hospital, Dr. Anton Tissera told The Nation that investigations were being conducted on the case, while the hospital has done everything in its power, regarding this issue.

�This is up to the courts now. The law will decide who is responsible for this tragedy. Already, an investigation is being conducted by the Health Ministry on this incident. I have, individually, sent my 1st report to the Ministry and the 2nd one is on the way. The Medical Council has also been informed to temporarily revoke the doctor�s licence. We have done everything in our power. There is no resistance shown on our side,� he said.

Dr. Tissera further added that he doesn�t know any details about the suspect Dr Sudarshana Jayasinghe, other than his name and the fact that he obtained hostel facilities at the hospital. A similar case was reported in a provincial newspaper called Mee Pura, of a doctor working at the Negombo Hospital; however, the case was �lost�, as the victim who had escaped from the doctor�s clutches, hadn�t made any written complaints to the police or any other relevant authorities, he said.

�We don�t know how legitimate those facts are, as no complaint was ever made to any authority about the incident. An article was carried in a provincial newspaper called Mee Pura, of a young girl taken into a room by one of the doctors at the hospital. It was reported that the girl ran out of the room, and informed her boyfriend standing outside.�

The suspect in this murder, Dr. Jayasinghe, is married and lives in Maradankadawala. He worked in the operating theatre under surgeon, Dr. Wickramasekara. The Nation met Dr. Wickramasekara and asked what kind of a student Dr Jayasinghe was.
�I don�t know anything about his personal life. But he did the work he was assigned to do, well, at the ward. Never lost his temper or shouted at a nurse or anyone for anything.�

One of the sisters who happened to work under Dr. Jayasinghe at the operating theatre, on terms of anonymity, told The Nation, �He is a very good doctor. He has never raised his voice to anyone of us, for anything. He has always treated us very kindly.�

From further inquiry, The Nation learnt that on the day we visited the hospital, everyone in Dr Jayasinghe�s batch was conferred appointments, at the John De Silva Theatre. And perhaps, Dr. Jayasinghe too, if not for his involvement in this tragedy, , would have been presented with his appointment that day as well. Either way that Friday is unforgettable to him, as, later that night, another story was in the air. The doctor in custody, had allegedly tried to commit suicide using his belt. Following this attempt, Dr. Jayasinghe was rushed to the Colombo National Hospital, where he continues to receive treatment at the Intensive Care Unit. Chamila Dissanayake, a young girl who lived in Moneragala with her parents, was engaged to be married soon. Two weeks earlier, she had undergone surgery for the removal of a lump in her breast. The surgery was performed by Dr. Jayasinghe. Chamila had come to the clinic on Monday for a post surgical check up.

One of her colleagues at Smart Shirts Lanka Co Ltd, Niluka Damayanthi said, �She was a very shy girl and a very good friend. She lived her life very freely and easily, without any complications. I don�t believe that she had any reason to commit suicide. She even took her sickness in a light manner. We were worried about her sickness, much more than her. She was so shy, that she didn�t even tell us about her sickness first (lump in her breast). It was the aunty at whose house she stayed, found out about the cancer and took her to hospital to get treatment. She was so innocent. I have lost a dear friend and more, a sister.�

Damayanthi further added that Chamila never complained about her doctors. In fact, she had told her that it was different doctors who attended on her, and not the same doctor. On Thursday, employees of Smart Shirts Company in Katana, held a protest campaign in Negombo, demanding the authorities to take relevant action against this brutal injustice. More than 800 workers of the company reportedly walked up to Malfarm Junction, where the police had stopped them from entering the Negombo Hospital.

Administration Manager, Smart Shirt Company, Sumudu Edirisinghe told The Nation that the workers were deeply fond of Chamila and they were forced to see the body of their beloved sister as it was brought to the factory before burial.

�They were all moved by what happened to Chamila. It was those emotions which made them hold a protest demanding justice. But our workers only held a protest. They never did anything violent or went against the law. We will not do anything against the law. But we will all bear witness to what happen, as we will continue to follow this case till the end, and see the outcome.�

Meanwhile, the postmortem report revealed that the victim, Chamilla Dissanayake, had been sexually assaulted before her death.
The Supervisor, Nanditha Niroshini Jayasekara under whom Chamila worked for three years said, �My student is very obedient, down to earth and innocent. We all loved her. The only thing we ask is for the law to do justice to that innocent life which was destroyed. We used to consider doctors as gods. If this doctor is responsible for this crime, we ask the relevant authorities to take action against him. It is only one doctor, and we are not so petty minded as to go against all the doctors or the Negombo Hospital. We demand justice.�

This whole story is just like the pieces of a puzzle, that you are trying to put together, in the name of truth, and justice. There are pieces, versions, the police, the judiciary, the media and politicians involved in this case. News items have also been published on circumstances surrounding the death of this young girl. The victim has been named. But the villain, a blank space for the law to fill, while we watch in suspense, to see what happens. However, one thing is certain. Whether this doctor committed this crime or not, and if he did, whether it was only him or with the connivance of other doctors, people will not be able to look up to doctors in the same way again, at least for some time, without remembering Chamila.

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