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Forensic Pathologists Needed

Published:Friday | July 31, 2015 | 3:20 PM


'Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment' Psalm 60:3 KJV

Jamaica continues to confront adversities such as drought on a literal level, in nature and in the country's assets and finances. Compounding that is the spike in homicides and road fatalities which are placing a strain on the Legal Medicine Unit Forensic Laboratory, contracted funeral homes and public health facilities.

There are two forensic pathologists working in Jamaica, a country that was listed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2014, as having the sixth highest homicide rate in the world.

That simply suggests that contracted funeral homes have in storage, cadavers for months, pending post-mortem, while families struggle for closure as their love ones are yet to be autopsied, thus delaying burial.

More forensic pathologists should be deployed to the Legal Medicine Unit Forensic Laboratory so as to free up contracted funeral homes and other health facilities that store bodies, considered medico legal cases. Also, the increase in the deployment of forensic pathologists will also positively impact criminal investigations and cases before the courts, as autopsy findings and forensic evidence will be more forthcoming.

The current pathologists are expatriates who I can imagine, are weary, due to the workload and limited resources.

Alert! Alert! Alert! Forensic pathologists are deemed "scarce commodity" yet, in the year 2006, we deprived one of our own, Dr Kisha Mitchell-Richards the opportunity to serve her country in the said field. Nonetheless she migrated to better opportunities and they received her with open arms. She went on to create waves at the prestigious Yale University where she excelled and assumed the position of assistant professor and director of autopsy. Brain drain can no longer be afforded!

Medicine lovers, this specialised field presents itself as a fruitful endeavour. The Government should not only seek to recruit forensic pathologists but rather, implement a training platform for local medical students and doctors in forensic pathology. Additionally, the Government should seek to subsidise the post-graduate degree in pathology 100 per cent, so as to make it more attractive to medical students and especially medical doctors who owe hundreds of thousands in academic loans.

Lest we ease the burden on our dear forensic pathologists, we dare to chase them back to their native country. Since the beginning of this year a forensic pathologist went back to his native country after his contract ended, and I am of the opinion that he did not lend a brief thought to contract renewal with the Government.

Entice, empower and encourage our local, promising medical students and practitioners; they are our 'indigenous commodity.'