The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) hopes that a fair hearing by the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be given to the doctor involved in the case of Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain. The 21-year-old Navy cadet was pronounced dead at the Serdang Hospital on 1 June after allegedly being brutalised by a group of students.

He was allegedly bound and beaten over a laptop dispute and also tortured with a belt, rubber hose, iron and hanger. Reports state that he had received treatment twice at private clinics. However, it was learned that the clinicians who treated him did not direct him immediately to a hospital even though they were aware of his severe condition.

The doctor’s observations at that time must be considered

Dr Ravindran R. Naidu, MMA President, justified that when the doctor saw National Defence University of Malaysia student at the time of his consultation, it might have been very different from what was observed during the post-mortem.

“The (health) minister, as a practising doctor and clinician will of course know that the attending doctor’s impression and observations at the time he saw the patient must be given weight,” said the MMA President in a statement recently.

“If the injuries were consistent with the history given by the victim, the doctor might have had no suspicion at all of any unlawful act having been committed,” he explained.

Doctors must report criminal cases to the police

On 18 June, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam stated that the MOH would call upon the doctor from a private clinic, who had allegedly failed to report injuries sustained by the victim to the police, for an explanation. It was reported that the Navy cadet received treatment from this doctor.

Subramaniam added his in statement that said standard operating procedures dictated that doctors and hospitals must report the matter to the police if a patient is found to be injured secondary to an accident or is believed to have crime-related injuries.

“If a report is not lodged, it is wrong, because it is the responsibility and a practice that should be observed by the doctor treating the patient,” he said.

Ravindran replied to these comments saying, as responsible doctors, abiding by the law was a wish for each and every one of them. “If we are reasonably sure that a criminal act has been performed on or by one of our patients, we will report it to the relevant authorities,” he stated.

“Of course, medical confidentiality is very important, so the suspicion would have to be very strong for us to breach it in even a very limited way,” Ravindran continued.

MMA urges ministry to produce guidelines

Besides hoping that the minister and his officials will hear the doctor’s side of the story fairly, Ravindran also extended the association’s desire for the ministry to produce guidelines to ensure such sad incidents do not recur.

He added that patient confidentiality was “not an excuse” but noted its importance as he said any suspicion of criminal elements “would have to be very strong for us to breach it in even a very limited way”.

Ravindran called on the higher education ministry to further investigate how “such profound brutality” could have gone unnoticed by the relevant university authorities. MIMS

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