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Discovery of five foetuses shocks city

M. Waqar Bhatti

Karachi: The discovery of five foetuses from a garbage dump in a city neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon sent shockwaves among locals of the area, who called the police and demanded strict action against those involved in this grizzly incident.

Initially, locals thought that these were either bodies of babies unwanted by their parents or foetuses aborted at a maternity clinic. SHO Mehmoodabad police station Rao Muqeem told The News that a local saw the foetuses in a garbage dump in Gali No 11 of Sector-E in Akhtar Colony and informed the police on helpline 15.

Police and rescuers from the Edhi Foundation reached the spot and shifted the unborn babies to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), where a board of directors, comprising senior doctors and a female gynecologist, examined the foetuses.

Investigators from the police and medical fraternity later said the five foetuses found in the garbage dump were all females. They had been fixed in a formaldehyde solution, which preserves human or animal form for a longer period of time.

Investigators believed that the foetuses belonged to some medical lab or teaching institute and had been disposed of improperly by the lower staff working at those places.

The recovery raised alarm among government functionaries. Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed immediately constituted a committee to investigate the matter and made Special Secretary Health Dr Suresh Kumar the head of the team.

Pressure from authorities also caused the local police to spring to their feet. Mahmood police officials started raiding maternity homes and clinics in their area. Several doctors and paramedical staff were also rounded up to ascertain if the babies were aborted there and dumped by their staff.

At the same time, the team of doctors examining the feotuses found they were between three to nine months and were fixed in formaldehyde. As a result, the medical investigators were unable to determine when they were extracted from the wombs of their mothers.

This discovery relieved investigators and they told the media that this was not a criminal act, but perhaps these specimens of human foetuses were discarded from some biological lab or medical teaching institute. It was believed that the foetuses had been kept there for educational purposes.

Special Secretary Health Dr Suresh Kumar told The News that that this was not a criminal act as the foetuses were fixed in preservatives. This led him to believe that the foetuses were neither killed before or at birth nor aborted at a health facility in recent days.

However, he underlined that the disposal of such specimens or tissues came under the hospital and environmental laws of the country and therefore, the dumping of the feotuses was a criminal activity.

Police Surgeon Dr Hamid Padhiar also confirmed that doctors who examined them found that they were fixed in formalin and were thrown in the garbage dump by the careless staff of some lab or health facility.

Leading gynecologists in the city were not sure whether the babies were aborted or suffocated to death, but said their disposal was improper. They also pointed out that the electronic media highlighted the issue without going into proper details.

Dr Shershah Syed, a noted male gynecologist, told The News that pregnancies can be terminated to ensure the mother’s health and there was nothing illegal about such a practice. However, there was no such facility available at public hospitals and people go to untrained midwives for abortions.

“If the fetuses are 20 to 26 weeks old, there is nothing wrong with the abortion if it was carried out to save the mother’s life, but unfortunately, this facility is not available at our public sector hospitals,” he added.

Dr Shah said he was calling for abortion facilities at public hospitals so that they were no longer carried out by untrained people at places lacking basic health facilities.

Dr Samrina Hashmi, a Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) representative and gynecologist, observed that there was nothing illegal about abortions, but there should be a proper system under which pregnancies were terminated as 90 percent abortions were carried on married women.

“Married women go for abortions in Pakistan as a means of family planning as they are unaware of interventions available in the country,” she said. The gynecologist supported abortion facilities at public hospitals to save the lives of mothers.

Source: The News