Indian-Origin Toddler’s Death in Perth Sparks Outrage Over Healthcare Discrimination

“I may not have an Australian accent, but my child’s life mattered just as much.”

In a deeply tragic incident, a toddler Sandipan Dhar of Indian-origin in Perth Hospital died allegedly after being refused a blood test. This heartbreaking incident has ignited a heated discussion about healthcare discrimination and the importance of cultural competence in medical services.

Before his untimely demise, Sandipan’s parents, Sanjoy and Saraswati Dhar, sought medical help at the Key Largo Medical Centre GP practice due to his persistent fever. Despite multiple visits and repeated requests, their plea for a blood test to diagnose their son’s condition was consistently refused by the medical staff.

Image Source: Screeshots ABC Video
Image Source: Screenshots ABC Video

Highlighting their growing frustration as Sandipan’s condition continued to decline despite ongoing medical treatment, Dhar recounted,

“We were increasingly dissatisfied with the care Sandipan was receiving, so we headed directly to the hospital from the medical centre.”

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Their fears were further intensified when hospital staff, on March 22, assessed Sandipan and concluded he was “completely fine,” dismissing their concerns even as his symptoms persisted.

Image Source: Screeshots ABC Video
Image Source: Screenshots ABC Video

This refusal came despite the parents’ insistence and their obvious concern for their child’s deteriorating health. Reports indicate that the refusal was allegedly influenced by the family’s Indian background, highlighting a disturbing instance of racial and cultural biases and insensitivity in healthcare provision.

Parents’ Plea and Hospital’s Response

Sandipan’s parents have spoken out, expressing their anguish and frustration. They recounted how their pleas for a simple blood test were ignored by the hospital staff.

Emphasising the implicit bias that may have played a role in their tragic loss, the heartbroken father said,

Image Source: Screenshots ABC Video

“I may not have an Australian accent, but my child’s life mattered just as much.”

Western Australia’s Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson acknowledged the family’s distress, saying, “It’s certainly the case that the family feels they weren’t heard.”

Image Source: Screeshots ABC Video
Western Australia’s Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson; Image Source: Screenshots ABC Video

Ramsay Health Care, responsible for Joondalup Health Campus, acknowledged a communication disconnect but maintained that the care provided was appropriate.

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Dr Shane Kelly, Ramsay’s state manager, emphasised the importance of addressing the differing perspectives between the staff and the Dhar family.

Image Source: Screenshots ABC Video

Sandipan’s death is now undergoing a SAC 1 clinical review, and it is likely that the WA coroner will also conduct an investigation.

SAC 1 situations refer to clinical incidents that have resulted in or had the potential to result in serious harm or death, attributed to the healthcare provided rather than the patient’s underlying condition or illness.

Minister Sanderson mentioned that the Dhar family has been in contact with the WA attorney-general, and they are receiving additional support.

Community and Public Reaction

The Indian Australian community, as well as various human rights groups, have reacted with outrage and sorrow. This incident has prompted calls for a thorough investigation into the hospital’s protocols and the behaviour of its staff. Many are demanding accountability and measures to ensure that such discrimination does not recur.

 “The system failed us, and we need to ensure that no other family experiences such a tragedy,”

Mr Dhar added.

Parallels Drawn to Aishwarya Aswarth’s Case in Sandipan Dhar’s Tragic Death

A family spokesperson has noted similarities between Sandipan Dhar’s tragic death and that of Aishwarya Aswarth nearly three years ago. While there are distinct differences in the cases, both incidents underscore critical issues in healthcare response and management.

Aishwarya Aswarth died in April 2021 at Perth Children’s Hospital from a blood infection while waiting for treatment, highlighting severe lapses in timely medical intervention.

Minister Amber Jade-Sanderson said the circumstances of Sandipan’s case were not the same as Aishwarya’s.

“[Aishwarya] was a largely healthy young girl who contracted an infection which led to sepsis,” Ms Sanderson said.

Broader Implications

This tragic event has also brought to light broader issues of healthcare access and equity. Discrimination in healthcare settings can have fatal consequences, and this case underscores the need for robust training in cultural competence for healthcare providers. Ensuring that all patients receive unbiased and empathetic care is crucial for preventing such tragedies in the future.

In response to the incident, there are growing calls for policy changes and the implementation of stricter guidelines to address and prevent discrimination in healthcare. Advocacy groups are urging West Australia’s government to take concrete steps to promote inclusivity and equity in the healthcare system.

This heartbreaking incident is a sobering reminder of the consequences of healthcare discrimination and the urgent need for reforms to protect all patients, regardless of their background. As the investigation continues, the hope is that lessons learned from this tragedy will lead to meaningful changes that ensure better healthcare outcomes for everyone.

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