A three-month-old Indian baby has been discharged from the hospital where he had been staying for the last several weeks after his parents brought him in on reports of spontaneous human combustion (SHC).
The family remains desperate for answers, claiming that their child, named Rahul, has spontaneously combusted four times, starting when he was just nine days old, The New York Times reports.
"There was a flame on his belly and his right knee, and my husband rushed with a towel to put it off," the mother, 23-year-old Rajeshwari Karnan, said in regards to the first incident. "I got very scared."
At this point, the couple says they have been kicked out of their village due to fear that they pose a fire hazard, forcing the small family to take refuge in a nearby temple.
However, tests to determine whether the baby emits inflammable gases that could be triggering combustion have all returned normal, prompting doctors to rule out SHC.
According to The Times of India, doctors at the Kilpauk Medical College Hospital where the baby was staying have informed officials at the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) about the case. ICCW members say that while they are not investigating the case, the organization will provide counseling for the parents.
"Nobody has been able to pinpoint the reason why Rahul suffered burn injuries," ICCW General Secretary Chandradevi Thanikachalam said. "Our aim is to protect the child until a conclusion is reached, so we'll keep Rahul and his mother Rajeshwari in a place where he will also get additional protection, but only after his parents' approval."
SHC, though a source of skepticism for many scientists, has seen an influx of supporters in recent years, according to The New York Times. In 2011, for example, an Irish coroner listed SHC as the cause of death of an Irishman who was discovered in cinders despite no apparent source of a fire.
Then, in 2012, an article published in The New Scientist pointed to the possibility of a heightened presence of the chemical acetone in someone's blood as a potential cause of SHC.
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