The alleged suicide of Divya Macchiraju, the 26-year-old resident doctor at Jaslok Hospital on Friday, by injecting an anaesthesia agent has brought to fore the vulnerability of depressed doctors to easy means of death.
International studies say self‐poisoning with drugs is more common among doctors, especially anaesthetists, than the general public.
After Divya’s parents identified her body on Saturday, it was carried to state-run JJ Hospital for post-mortem.
Forensic doctors at JJ Hospital said an injection prick on the inner side of the left arm was noticed on the gross physical examination of her body. The police also seized a vial of anaesthetic agent Vecuronium Bromide or Norcuron from Divya’s hostel room, where her body was found.
“A 10ml vial of the drug was discovered. The vial was half-empty. It is highly possible that the deceased injected a 5ml dose into her body,” said a police official.
Norcuron is a muscle relaxant, which is used in paralysing the natural respiratory function of a patient. “It is used to halt the lung function of a patient about to undergo surgery. The patient is later put on artificial ventilator while the surgeon performs the procedure,” said the forensic doctor from JJ.
Doctors said that Norcuron is an apt tool to end life as lung function stops within 30 seconds to three minutes. “It causes paralysis of the breathing centre in the brain and sends signals for stopping lung function,” said Dr Shrikant Bhabulgaonkar, chief anaesthetist, Civil Hospital at Thane.
The most popular self-poisoning agents are barbiturate drugs like Pentathol, along with anaesthetic agents like ketamine, vecuronium or pancuronium.
“It is easily available to anaesthetists as they acquire and deal with such drug vials on a day-to-day basis. Self-prescribing is another problem, with the root cause being depression among resident doctors. They are driven to suicide as they refrain from seeking medical treatment or counselling for psychiatric concerns,” said Bhabulgaonkar.
Divya’s parents arrived late night on Friday and were in a state of shock. “We refuse to accept that our daughter ended her life. She is jovial by nature and had been talking over the phone with us for the last two days. In fact, she was planning a vacation to Hyderabad in February and was very excited about it,” Divya’s mother Rukmani Macchiraju told dna.
R Prabhu, senior inspector, Gamdevi police station, said they would check her call records. The police have registered a case of accidental death. They, however, said that if they suspect any foul play, they will convert the case into a criminal offence.
Forensic doctors have reserved the cause of death until reports from chemical analysis of viscera and histopathology of organs like liver, kidney, lungs, heart and brain are received from Kalina Forensic Lab and pathology department at JJ Hospital.
Norcuron is a muscle relaxant, which is used in paralysing the natural respiratory function of a patient. It is used to halt the lung function of a patient about to undergo surgery. The patient is later put on artificial ventilator while the surgeon performs the procedure.