‘It Was A Witnessed Cardiac Arrest,’ Say Jayalalithaa’s Doctors

CHENNAI: J Jayalalithaa “was speaking” until she suffered a massive cardiac arrest, doctors of Chennai’s hospital said today, speaking for the first time on the former Chief Minister’s death in December in an attempt to “dispel rumours”.

“There was no question of poisoning, nothing mysterious about the death… It was a witnessed cardiac arrest…we tried to revive her for 20 minutes,” the doctors said at a press conference that they said was facilitated by the government.

Ms Jayalalithaa died on December 5 after nearly three months in hospital. Her collapse at the end was completely unexpected, said the doctors.

“It was severe infection with damage to organs that led to her death,” said Richard Beale, the British doctor who treated the 68-year-old in her final weeks.

She had communicated in sign language and was “responding and interactive” for several days before her vitals crashed, he said.

Throughout her 75-day hospital stay, there was speculation about Ms Jayalalithaa’s health, with many wondering whether the gravity of her true condition was largely hidden from the public to keep up appearances that Jayalalithaa was firmly in charge. Only a very close group of people, including her longtime companion VK Sasikala, were allowed access to her.

“She was very much completely aware and interactive,” said Dr Beale. “When I said I’m in charge, she said, ‘no, I am in charge’,” he shared.

The doctors also said when the Governor visited the Chief Minister one time, he saw her through a glass screen and she raised her thumb at him.

Another doctor confirmed that the politician was conscious when she signed off on an election document.

Ms Jayalalithaa’s thumb imprint on that document only served to fuel more speculation that she was not conscious. Many skeptics, including the opposition DMK, took to demanding proof that the Chief Minister was in fine health.

The doctors stressed that it is “not normal practice to photograph people who are critically ill, it is regarded as intrusion”.

Asked about his last conversation with Ms Jayalalithaa, Dr Beale said, “We talked about what she liked on TV, what food she liked, rehabilitation, I talked about my children…She couldn’t speak but she could mouth the words. She could signal what she meant.”

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