India Gang-Rape Victim Deteriorating

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An Indian gang-rape victim is showing signs of severe organ failure after taking a turn for the worse, the hospital treating her said Friday after medics criticized a decision to fly her to Singapore.

The 23-year-old was airlifted to Singapore Thursday after the attack on a bus in New Delhi on December 16, a crime which has prompted widespread street protests in India amid simmering anger at the level of violence against women.

"Her vital signs are deteriorating with signs of severe organ failure," Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement.

"As of 9pm (1300 GMT) on 28 Dec, the patient's condition has taken a turn for the worse.

"This is despite doctors fighting for her life including putting her on maximum artificial ventilation support, optimal antibiotic doses as well as stimulants which maximize her body's capability to fight infections."

The hospital had informed the victim's family of her worsening condition and "they are currently by her side to encourage and comfort her", Loh said.

Earlier on Friday the victim was described by doctors in Singapore as "struggling against the odds, and fighting for her life" after she was found to have a lung infection and brain injury. While still in India she had suffered a heart attack.

She had also been diagnosed with severe intestinal injuries as a result of being attacked with an iron bar during the assault.

Shortly after the latest hospital statement was issued, an AFP reporter outside the intensive care unit where the victim is being treated saw nurses wheeling in medical equipment.

There was a flurry of activity and loud sobs were heard from the room, but they subsided a short while later.

The victim was treated in Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital after the attack, in which six men raped her.

The decision to fly her out of the country by air ambulance was taken at a meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet on Wednesday and the government has promised to pay all her medical bills.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government's only concern was to ensure the victim received "the best treatment possible".

But newspapers suggested the authorities, who have struggled to contain nationwide protests over the attack, were keen to have her transferred out of the country.

An unnamed doctor who was part of a team of experts consulted about the transfer told The Hindu newspaper they had only been asked whether it was safe to move her and not whether it was the best course of action.

"The question was not whether there were any deficiencies in treatment that would be met by moving her... She was being given the best possible care," the doctor was quoted as saying.

Samiran Nundy, chairman of the organ transplant and gastro-surgery department of Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told the paper the transfer made little sense.

"I just can't understand why a critically ill patient with infection in blood and body, high grade fever and on the ventilator is being transferred," he said.

"It will take weeks in this case to even look into the possibility of an intestinal transplant so why hurry and take the patient out from a facility which works so well. It seems more of a political move."

Singh has ordered an official inquiry into the gang-rape and new laws to protect women as well as stiffer penalties for the worst sex crimes.

The government has announced plans to post the photos, names and addresses of convicted rapists on official websites to publicly shame them. The campaign will begin in Delhi, which has been dubbed India's "rape capital".

Shinde also said Delhi police would soon launch a drive to recruit more female officers as a confidence-building measure.

"Every police station should have women police personnel," the minister said.

The Indian state of West Bengal, which is run by a woman chief minister, on Friday promised 65 all-female police stations.

"Sixty-five all-women police stations will be set up across West Bengal to deal with crimes against women," chief minister Mamata Banerjee told a rally in the north of the state.

"Ten of these stations are already functioning," the fiery politician added.

The Delhi gang-rape has shone the spotlight on a crime that occurs on a daily basis in India, with most such assaults taking place in rural areas.

Police said on Friday that a 15-year-old schoolgirl had had her throat slit after being gang-raped in the Pali Muqimpure area of Uttar Pradesh state. A hunt has been launched for three youths after the attack on Thursday.

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