General News of Friday, 3 May 2002
Dr Edwin Wiredu, a Pathologist and Dean of the School of Allied Sciences of the University of Ghana, Legon, on Wednesday said pathologists were an "endangered species" in the country and that there were only nine currently serving.
He said of the number, six serve at the Korle Bu and Police hospitals and have to travel to other areas of the country to offer their services, while the remaining three are stationed at the Military Hospital and in the Ashanti and Central Regions.
Dr Wiredu, who made this known at a 'Continuing Education' Programme Central Region Division of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) organised at Elmina, said the last time a pathologist was turned out was in 1995 but said there were eight currently in training.
The theme for the programme was: "Forensic Medicine in Clinical Practice: Medico-Legal Implications'' and brought together about 100 doctors and other health personnel from the Central and Western Regions.
The Pathologist told the forum the type of deaths that needed the involvement of a coroner and cautioned them of legal implications of certain actions such as not immediately informing the next of kin of patients, who die during operations or before recovering from anaesthesia.
He hinted that Pathology Department, in conjunction with the Attorney General's Department and the Ministry of the Interior through the Inspector-General of Police, was working towards the establishment of a 'Forensic Pathology Team' to help enhance pathology service delivery in the country.
When established the team would ensure that the appropriate things were done to stem the rate of exhumation of bodies and legal battles in suspected homicide cases. On the performance of autopsies, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, debunked the notion that autopsies could not be conducted on Muslims since they were to be buried within 24 hours of their death.
He pointed out that apart from that fact that there was no "fact of law" to support it, the Koran even stipulates that the period of burial should be "as soon as practicable" and not within 24 hours as was being propagated. Prof Akosa, therefore, urged doctors to refrain from yielding to pressure into signing cause of death certificates without examining the bodies.