ISLAMABAD: With irrelevant medical officers reportedly conducting post-mortems in hospitals of the federal capital, the Criminal Justice Coordination Committee has decided to approach the health secretary to seek the appointment of forensic medicine experts as medico-legal officers (MLOs).
The committee has also shown concerns over the absence of forensic experts in hospitals of the federal capital. The meeting of the committee was chaired by District and Sessions Judge West Nasir Javed Rana and representatives of the judiciary, district administration, police, hospitals and public prosecutor were among the participants.
During the meeting, Dr Imtiaz, Polyclinic MLO and Dr Saifur Rehman, MLO of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), informed the chair that there was no medico-legal surgeon in both hospitals.
“The medical officers are working as MLOs in Pims and Polyclinic. The relevant authority should make necessary arrangements for their postgraduate specialisation in the field of forensic medicine (Diploma in Forensic Medicine).
Official claims ‘janitors’, incapable examiners conducting autopsies in absence of qualified staff
They further informed that if an MLO tries to bring transparency and improvements in the system they face threats from various quarters so there should be a mechanism to protect them as well.
They further informed that an MLO should be made a member of the Crime Scene Unit (CSU). They also suggested that MLR [medico legal report] must be organised in tabulated form, a practice also followed in Punjab, in order to make the system more effective,” according to minutes of the meeting available with Dawn.
The committee decided that the health secretary would be approached in writing to make necessary arrangements for the postgraduate specialisation of medical officers in the field of forensic medicine.
When contacted, a senior officer of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), wishing not to be quoted, said that it was not the first time that the issue was raised. He said the forensic experts do not take samples and their presence was usually ignored at the time of post-mortems.
“I still remember that in 2015 Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) had informed a parliamentary committee that post-mortems were performed by sweepers and janitors of the hospitals. At this, the then-senator, Farhatullah Babar, strongly reacted and forced the PMDC to eat its words. However, the fact is that the issue could not be addressed to date; either post-mortems were done by janitors or by those who are not qualified for the job,” he claimed.
It is worth mentioning that during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services in 2015, a public petition was being heard regarding the council’s inclination towards merging the courses of forensic medicine and pathology.
In its written response to the standing committee regarding the petition, the PMDC had said autopsy and post-mortem were the main procedures in forensic examination. “Post-mortem should ideally be performed by a medical examiner but in Pakistan, it is performed by sweepers and ‘bhungee’ (janitor) of the hospital,” PMDC had said in its written reply.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023