Dearth of MLOs affect autopsy cases in Karachi 

Dearth of MLOs affect autopsy cases in Karachi 

Dearth of MLOs affect autopsy cases in Karachi 

Dow Medical College’s Mortuary. Photo: Athar Khan/Bol News


KARACHI: Saleem Masih, Bansi Lal and Barkat Masih at times used to serve as pathologists at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) and Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) respectively. They are considered as highly experienced medico-legal examiners, and merely by looking at the corpse, can tell the cause of death. But the official designation of all three hospital staffers is peon.

And now, despite retirement from service, all three of them are, at a regular basis, approached by the young medico-legal officers (MLOs) who seek their help in post-mortems or medico-legal examinations because the government has not established any training institution for medico-legal officers.

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The new lot of MLOs hardly conduct post-mortems or medico-legal examinations, but merely write down the cause of death as per the directions of the peons.

Sorry tales of mortuaries


There are three main mortuaries in Karachi including the JPMC, the ASH and the Civil Hospital, where dead bodies from incidents such as road accidents and other incidents like clashes etc, are received on a daily basis for post-mortems.

These mortuaries tell the sorry state of affairs of the medico-legal section of the police department.

Dr Kaleem Sheikh, a retired police surgeon who served in the medico-legal section for 27 years told Bol News that there is a total number of nine medico-legal centres in Karachi out of which only three at the major government hospitals including ASH, JPMC and CHK are functional round the clock. “The annual budget for medico-legal department is between Rs450,000 and Rs500,000,” he informed.

An Edhi worker comes out of the Jinnah Hospital pathology department. Photo: Athar Khan/Bol News

“We have seen bodies lying in the mortuaries for days, as the last two decades in Karachi [have] witnessed bloody clashes, but due to the dearth of resources, a timely post-mortem of the bodies in large numbers could not be possible” Sheikh said.

Furthermore, he said there is also a dearth of female medico-legal officers that delays the post-mortem of the dead bodies of women.


What is the actual work of MLOs?

A post-mortem is a careful external and internal examination of the corpse that at times leads to valuable information pertaining to a case.

The cases that MLOs have to deal with include assaults, domestic violence, child abuse, accidents, industrial mishaps, burn injuries resulting from malfunctioning of electrical appliances, cases of suicides, etc.

Mohammad Akram, an employee of a local newspaper, served 12 days in jail due to a fake medico-legal examination that held him responsible for a crime.

“It was just a fight among children — my son and another child. The other party registered an FIR against me and my son on a petty issue, and bribed the fake medico-legal officer to prepare a report against me and my son. And because of the report I was sent behind bars,” Akram recalled.


He urged the authorities to give due importance to the medico-legal section of hospitals/clinics as they play a pivotal role in the outcome of cases.

In this regard, in November 2020, the Sindh health department had constituted a 15-member committee for medico-legal reforms to improve the system in the province.

However, a source revealed to Bol News that the committee has still not submitted the proposals for reforms, and the department is still in a shambles.

He said some members of the committee had submitted their proposals for improvements in the system, but the health department did not pay heed to them.

The source also said that committee members, in their proposals, had requested the authorities to establish an institution for the training of MLOs.

He however confirmed that Sindh is ill-equipped with regard to the availability of ‘qualified’ male MLOs, and the required number of female MLOs remains a bigger concern.


He further added that appointments of MLOs and women MLOs in the medico-legal departments will ensure speedy tackling of cases with regard to rape and gender-based violence as well as those of assault, injury, death and more. He claimed that ideally there should be at least four women and six male MLOs in every hospital.

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