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The sad demise of Dr Payal Tadvi has raised many questions? There are many inquiry committees appointed such as by the Nair Hospital, Mumbai Police, Indian Medical Association, and others.

The committees are investigating the allegations, and the media has seized of the issue. The police will look at the ‘criminal’ angles and abetment, on the other hand, the college is looking at whether she was ragged. Administrative responsibilities and acts of omission or commission are also being explored.

In the scenario of suicide, and allegations flowing to and fro, a ‘Psychological Autopsy’ is a must. Conducted by mental health professionals, it will give a comprehensive understanding, including the triggers, and trauma, if any, was inflicted on the doctor.

It involves detailed interviews of family members, friends, relatives, teachers, and everyone concerned. The team will explore her moods, preceding the event, conversations with those close to her, behaviours, and other details.

An inquiry without these elements makes it grossly incomplete following a successful suicide.

An understanding of her diet, sleep, concentration, quality of work, leisure time behaviour, chats, and other significant aspects will be done, along with examining of her healthcare records, and forensic details.

Multiple informants help to reach a reasonable, correct understanding. In Dr Payal’s case, it is mandatory as the entire episode has escalated to a different level, where many groups have jumped into the bandwagon. Social activists, caste groups, and politicians have come out in the open, making several demands.

Hence an autopsy will help clarify whether there was any abetment present or was she ragged. The event has led to the arrest of three colleagues and the suspension of a senior doctor too. The veracity of the allegations can be more accurately assessed by an autopsy rather than by a mere inquiry, administrative or by the cops.

After Rohith Vemula’s demise, I had written to the CJI, Supreme Court, and the Chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court for conducting a Psychological Autopsy.  Death by a heart attack does not raise any controversies, but suicide becomes an act for many players to get embroiled in the issue, thereby vitiating the entire atmosphere.

Some years ago, I had conducted a similar autopsy of a journalist, who worked as a PR chief in a well-known corporate on the request of the Press Club. Mental Health Professionals conduct routine autopsies to understand the processes in suicide to strengthen their ‘suicide prevention’ strategies.

Research has revealed through such post-mortems that ‘depression’ is associated with a large number of suicides. In the case of Dr Payal, Mental Health Professionals from outside the state can be summoned for the same to avoid any perceived bias or prejudice. The role of the three doctors arrested for the suicide present or absent will get clear.

A ‘Psychological Autopsy’ can provide justice to Dr Payal’s family and friends. It will put many rumours to rest and provide the court with scientific data to judge the case. That’s the need of the hour!

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