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Bhutto medical report fraught with lacunae: experts

Experts say the medical report of Benazir Bhutto is fraught with lacunae as doctors at the Rawalpindi General Hospital acted "unprofessionally" while writing it.

world Updated: Jan 06, 2008 13:17 IST

The medical report of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto is fraught with lacunae as doctors at the Rawalpindi General Hospital acted "unprofessionally" while writing it, medico-legal experts say.

"The doctors could have done a much better job by simply sticking to the basics like writing a proper medico-legal report mentioning the precise nature of injuries, description of wounds and kind of weapon (bullet, shrapnel or other possible object)," Dawn newspaper said on Sunday.

"Such a detailed report could have compensated the need for an autopsy which her husband Mr Asif Ali Zardari had refused, leaving the investigators to rely on the inconclusive report prepared by the doctors," it added.

This has given rise to speculation and conspiracy theories about how the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader actually died, including the "lever theory" propagated by the government that was eventually retracted.

The government has obtained the services of Scotland Yard, "but it is held that their probe would be constrained by the absence of a detailed examination of the former premier's injuries and loss of other vital forensic evidence," Dawn maintained.

"There are reports, albeit unconfirmed, which suggest that certain doctors had been influenced. A senior hospital source said the doctors had been under intense pressure from all sides over the cause of death", the newspaper added.

A senior medico-legal expert, Zaman Niazi, said the medical report contained alarming technical lapses and was "prima facie a case of foul play".

He based his contention on the absence of the casualty medical officer (CMO) from the list of seven doctors who signed the report, released a day after Bhutto's assassination. Ordinarily, the CMO is the initiator of such reports since he is the doctor who receives the patient in the emergency ward and hence is the most competent person to write the report.

According to Niazi, the description of wounds in the report is also inappropriate.

The standard description of the wounds requires the length, breadth and depth of the injuries to be mentioned. In Bhutto's case, the report just states the wound on the right measured 5x3cm without specifying the parameters and mentioning which ones had been omitted.

Thus, Naizi sees the report as a half-truth and an attempt to conceal the other half.

"Other doctors, seeking anonymity, also criticised the explanation of the position of the wound. The report says it (the wound) was just above the pinna of right ear, whereas medico-legal experts say that the position should have been in relation to some fixed point," Dawn noted.

Mian Rashid, a professor of forensic medicine at the Foundation Medical University and member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, was of the view that the depressed wound to which the report refers to under the section relating to cause of Bhutto's death has been grossly misinterpreted by the doctors.

The doctor, who also specialises in skull injuries, said the wound was in fact the "point of exit" of the bullet, adding: "Since the report says that whitish brain matter was coming out, it can only happen at point of exit."

According to Rashid, the doctors attending on the former prime minister did not mention the point of entry as they skipped the standard procedure for examining such wounds.

He also had reservations about the cause of death mentioned in the report.

Rawalpindi Medical College principal Mussadiq Khan, who led the team of doctors that wrote the report, was contacted a couple of times but did not respond, Dawn said.