Maharashtra healthcare system missing Forensic Experts

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MUMBAI: The incident where a doctor on duty struggled to conduct an autopsy and write the cause of death at the Thane Civil Hospital is not an isolated one, say experts.

They underlined how 60% of the state’s major medico-legal work is done by doctors who do not have any forensic background or training.

Barring the city, the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) delivers healthcare across the state, but it does not have a forensic medicine post.As many as 22 districts today do not have a forensic expert at their disposal. “Most of the times, incomplete and incorrect report make it to the court, and inadvertently grant the accused the benefit of the doubt and even acquittal in several cases,” a senior forensic teacher teacher said.

The state is among those with the lowest conviction rates, less than 10%, show National Crime Records Bureau figures.

“While medical graduates can perform autopsies in regular cases, a forensic expert is needed to identify injuries and understand ante-mortem injuries,” Dr Rajesh Dere, associate professor of forensic medicine, Sion Hospital, said.

In districts with medical colleges and thereby forensic medicine departments, medical officers at DHS-run centres are to consult the former.

“This rarely happens,” a senior doctor said. “One saw how the Bhandara case became a national embarrassment.”

About a year ago, a team of non-forensic doctors certified that three girls whose bodies were found in a well in Bhandara were raped and murdered. As the incident drew outrage, forensic experts were called in for a re-analysis and found no evidence of sexual assault.

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