Aruna Shanbaug, an Indian nurse who was in a coma for 42 years after she was brutally raped in a Mumbai hospital by an orderly, died on Monday, according to local media reports. Shanbaug had been in a vegetative state since 1973 when her assailant strangled her, cutting off the supply of oxygen to her brain.
The 66-year-old was assaulted by Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki when she was 26 at Mumbai's King Edward Memorial Hospital. Walmiki reportedly strangled her with a dog chain and then sodomized her. The attack reportedly left her with severe brain damage and in a paralytic state. It also reportedly damaged her cervical cord and left her blind. Walmiki was not charged with rape and was given a seven-year sentence for robbery and attempted murder after an official deleted parts of her medical report that showed Shanbaug was sodomized, BBC reported. Last week, she was put on life support after being diagnosed with pneumonia.
Shanbaug’s case sparked a debate over India’s euthanasia laws after the country’s Supreme Court, in 2011, rejected a plea to stop force-feeding her through a tube to end her life. The plea was reportedly filed by Shanbaug's friend and journalist Pinki Virani -- who wrote a book in 1998 about Shanbaug’s case -- but the hospital's doctors and nurses opposed the mercy-killing petition.
The same year, the court set guidelines for the use of euthanasia in extreme situations involving terminally ill patients but not in Shanbaug's case. The decision included India in a group of nations -- including Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland -- and some U.S. states, where some form of euthanasia is allowed, according to the Los Angeles Times.