Thursday, October 18, 2007

Missing links in Abiola's autopsy, by pathologist

By Bertram Nwannekanm

THE sudden death of the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M. K .O. Abiola has been revisited recently by an expert who declared that his demise ought to have been subjected to a coroner's inquest..

The expert, Prof. Albert Anjorin spoke at a lecture organised in honour of a foremost African professor of Forensic Pathology, Prof. William Olufemi Odesanmi on his 60th birthday by the Department of Morbid Anatomy and Forensic Medicine, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

Anjorin, an eminent professor of Pathology from the University of Ilorin, said that a forensic investigation would have revealed more facts on the cause of the death of the business mogul instead of relying solely on the post-mortem conducted by a team of Canadian pathologists.

He said: "It was not enough for the pathologist to conduct the post mortem and turn round to say that because of some disease in the blood vessel of the heart, the man deserved to die. If you go to Canada where the man (pathologist) came from and you examine the heart of a large number of Canadians, you will find the same level of disease in the blood vessel of the heart. Why are they not dropping dead?

"His (Abiola's) case is a classical example of how things are not always what they seem. The man was dead. What killed him? They said it was arterioscleroses. But was it arterioscleroses that killed him? Things are not always what they seem in forensic pathology."

Anjorin expressed regret that most sensitive deaths in Nigeria in recent times were never presented for coroner's inquest to involve forensic pathology.

The lecture, titled: Medicine and the law. . . Things are not always what they seem: A celebration of an African pioneer Forensic Pathologist, further revealed how forensic investigations would have helped in classifying such deaths into either natural, suicidal, homicidal, accidental, misadventure or simply to consign them as "open verdict," he said.

"If somebody dies, the forensic pathologist has the responsibility to establish whether this is a natural death, if the fellow dies of hypertension, diabetes, asthma, heart disease," he said.

The professor however attributed Nigeria's failure in utilising the expertise of forensic pathologists in resolving causes of many sensitive deaths and crime to factors such as the dearth of forensic pathologists in the country and the nation's poor premium on human life.

"I won't be surprised if the total number of Nigerians trained in forensic pathology and certified are not more than five. What has been happening is that if you are a morbid anatomist, you just take the body, dissect it and give your opinion. You are not a real and certified forensic pathologist. But it is better than nothing. At least you'll be able to give an opinion.

"But that is if the Police come back for the report. You can write your report, complete the coroner's form but the Police may never come for it. We have heaps of coroners form at Ilorin," Anjorin said.

He urged Odesanmi to help train more Nigerians as forensic pathologists before his retirement.

Odesanmi described his feelings on his 60th birthday as "mixed", saying he would have loved to see more qualified forensic pathologists in the country.

According to him, many states in the country do not have a forensic pathologist and therefore have to invite the experts from other parts of the country where the few forensic pathologists are located.

"After 30 years of service, I would have loved to boast of at least 20 forensic pathologists in Nigeria," he said, adding however that the gap could still be easily breached if government injected more funds into the medical schools to train more people.

A major highlight of the event was the fund raising towards the setting up of a library at the Department of Anatomy and Forensic Medicine of the university in his honour.

No comments: