Another world is possible – Farewell to Dr Vasantha Muthuswamy

March 2023

Dr Vasantha at a PREPARED meeting in September 2022

Prof. Doris Schroeder is the Co-ordinator of the TRUST and the PREPARED projects. She first met Dr Vasantha at a meeting in Delhi in 2008. They have been collaborating ever since. 

Dr Nandini Kumar is the Vice-President of FERCI, and one of Dr Vasantha’s closest and most long-term colleagues. 

In 2003, Indian author Arundhati Roy famously said: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” 

Last February, we lost Dr Vasantha Muthuswamy, a dear friend and member of the PREPARED team.

We could hear the new world breathing when Dr Vasantha was at our side. A world that repays privilege with kindness, a fight to protect the vulnerable, a seeking of wisdom, a strong work ethic, and an unfailing will to leave the world a better place.

Dr Vasantha Muthuswamy retired as the Senior Deputy Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in New Delhi. She was internationally recognised as a leader in bioethics, and nicknamed ‘the Mother of Bioethics’ in India. She was responsible for the release of the main ICMR ethics guidelines for biomedical research in 2000, 2006 and 2017, in addition to guidelines on animal research, stem cell research and genetically modified food. She was the Founder Member-Secretary of the Forum for Ethics Review Committees in Asia Pacific (FERCAP) and the president of the Forum for Ethics Review Committees in India (FERCI) from 2019 until her death.

It is tragic that Dr Vasantha’s wisdom can no longer inform developments on the PREPARED project, but we are endlessly grateful for her contributions to the TRUST ethics code and the legacy she leaves around the world. 

Dr Vasantha will also be missed greatly as the President of the Forum for Ethics Review Committees in India (FERCI) where her energy, drivenness, approachability and enthusiasm complemented the team and will always be remembered. 

Fatima and Vasantha in Nairobi, June 2016

“When I first met her here in my country, the Philippines, she was already a distinguished persona but she was humble with always an easy and available smile.” – Prof. Fatima Alvarez-Castillo, Manila

Pamela, Vasantha, Klaus Leisinger, Nandini and Kate Chatfield in Delhi, November 2017

“We are blessed to have known and worked with her over many years and her legacy will continue to shine as we follow her great example. I am sure that we have a great friend and intercessor in our heavenly home now.” – Prof. Pamela Andanda, Johannesburg

Joshua, Vasantha and Doris, Nairobi 2016

“We have lost a friend and a collaborator, but ‘when you lose someone you love, you gain an angel you know’.” – Joshua Kimani, Nairobi

Ock-Joo, Doris and Vasantha, online for PREPARED, September 2022

“Not only a great national leader in research ethics in India she was a warm true friend. I have a grateful heart for Vasantha’s triumphant and fulfilled life. May she find eternal peace.” – Prof. Ock-Joo Kim, Seoul

Nandini, Joyce Adhiambo, Michelle, Joshua, Vasantha, Brussels 2018

“Adventurous spirit, kind-heart and abundant grace. This is how we shall remember you.” – Dr Michelle Singh, Cape Town

We have lost one of the people who have made better worlds possible. Farewell Dr Vasantha.