Hospital authorities say a Mumbai nurse who was in a coma for 42 years after a sexual assault while working in a hospital has died.

Aruna Shanbaug suffered brain damage and was in a vegetative state after she was raped and strangled by a hospital worker in 1973.

Pravin Bangar, medical superintendent at Mumbai's King Edward Memorial Hospital, said Shanbaug had been diagnosed with pneumonia and had been on a life support system for the past few days.

Shanbaug's case sparked a debate over India's euthanasia laws after a Mumbai lawyer petitioned the courts to stop force-feeding her through a tube so her suffering would not be prolonged.

The case was opposed by nurses at the hospital who took turns taking care of her for more than four decades.