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Probe into foetuses disposal gets under way

February 15, 2012

KARACHI, Feb 15: Police and health officials on Wednesday continued to speculate on the reasons behind the disposal of the five female foetuses that were found on Tuesday in a Manzoor Colony garbage dump while investigators began to collect data from the area hospitals.

Both sides, however, seemed to concur from their initial findings that the “crime” had been carried out by an organised health facility or educational institution and not by individuals.

“We have some four private hospitals in our area and several private clinics,” said Inspector Rao Muqeem, the SHO of the Mehmoodabad police station.

“We have so far recorded statements of over a dozen people associated with these facilities and the exercise is still going on. It’s almost certain that the job was done by an organisation and not by an individual or untrained midwives. We are also gathering facts about the services the hospitals in our area offer but you can say that nothing substantial has been so far found in this respect.”

Aged between five and nine months, the foetuses weighed 300 grams, 314gms, 325gms, 365gms and 392gms. Though clinically unsupervised abortion is said to be common mainly in low-income neighbourhoods, the recovery of five foetuses in one go stirred debate among medical professionals, with some senior doctors pointing out that the job of a medical professional is not to get judgmental about a patient’s actions but to save a life.

Apart from the police’s criminal investigation, the incident also encouraged the provincial health ministry to set up an inquiry committee to look into the technical details of the remains and also check the “illegal and unethical practice” by health professionals and organisations.

“Their examination by our team suggested that foetuses were preserved in formalin for more than a month,” said Dr Sagheer Ahmed, the Sindh health minister, who set up the inquiry committee comprising senior officials of his ministry.

“It has at least been established that they were properly preserved and that cannot be an act of any individual or untrained person. Here, I think, the police investigation is more relevant to ascertain the health facility or educational institution that executed this task.”

The minister seemed inclined to believe that the culprit is one of the medical colleges that “disposed of” foetuses unprofessionally after they had served their purpose or a laboratory in a health facility that that had no further use for them in their research.

His views echoed the initial findings of the area police who voiced suspicions about the role of “major hospitals” in the incident rather than the nearby health facilities.

“The foetuses were found in a garbage dump near a storm drain that connects our area with the southern district of the city,” said Inspector Muqeem, the SHO Mehmoodabad police station.

“It seems more like a job carried out by the hospital or medical college that disposed of the foetuses in the storm drain which were finally taken out by some sanitary workers who knowingly or unknowingly threw them in the garbage dump.”

The area police meanwhile, he said, registered a case (FIR 25/2012) under Sections 329 (concealment of birth by secret disposal of dead body),

338-B (isqat-i-janin) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code against unidentified suspects on behalf of the state.