Dr. Pornthip gets the green light

G. Prakash
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 05:27:00
Teoh Beng Hock

THAI forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand — also respectfully referred to as “Dr Death” for her high profile forensic findings — has been given the greenlight to sit in on a second post-mortem on political aide Teoh Beng Hock.

This was confirmed yesterday by Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, who is also president of the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

Teoh was found dead on the fifth floor of the Selangor headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in Shah Alam on July 16, a day after he had been questioned overnight.

In an email response to Malay Mail, Dr Ismail said: “Any expert invited to give an opinion is free to do so. But, of course, a lot depends on the background and qualification of the expert and also the credibility.”

Touching on Malaysian regulations, as front-paged by Malay Mail yesterday, that the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) only allows for the post-mortem examination of a body to be undertaken by a government medical officer, Dr Ismail said it depended on what the foreign forensic pathologist’s role would be.

“For any doctor to practise in Malaysia, he or she must have a practising certificate from MMC. But, for a doctor to give an opinion on certain issues, the practising certificate is not actually necessary.”

Dr Ismail’s statement concurs with the opinion expressed earlier by counsel Gobind Singh Deo, who is holding a watching brief for Teoh’s family.

Gobind believes it will not be much of a problem if Dr Pornthip — brought in by the Selangor government as an expert witness in Teoh’s death inquest — is not allowed to conduct the autopsy.

“If Dr Pornthip is not allowed to conduct the post-mortem, she can still supervise the post-mortem and provide instructions to officers who are conducting it,” Gobind had said.

“Whatever her findings are following the second post-mortem, it will be backed up by photographic evidence,” Gobind said. “This will ensure the independence of her findings.”

Gobind had also suggested that the two local pathologists who conducted the first post-mortem on Teoh be present during Dr Pornthip’s examination of the body. “This is to eliminate the possibility of even more post- mortem in the future and hopefully, also to put finality and closure to the matter.”

Dr Ismail suggested that if the court hearing tomorrow on the application to exhume Teoh’s body is decided in favour of a second post-mortem, the government could ask for a local pathologist to be included to ensure fair play and avoid unnecessary quibbling later on.

Dr Pornthip’s involvement in the possible second post-mortem has gained credence as her testimony before the inquest two weeks ago claimed that Teoh could have been tortured. She had also testified that the marks on Teoh’s neck looked like he had been manually strangled.

She earlier said Teoh’s skull fracture was not typical of a transferred injury due to a fall but was more compatible with a blunt force being directly inflicted to the head.

LOCAL PATHOLOGIST WELCOMES DR PORNTHIP’S ROLE

SUNGAI Buloh Hospital forensic head Dr Shahidan Md Nor has spoken out in favour of Thai forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand being involved in the proposed second post-mortem on Teoh Beng Hock.

While the Malaysian Criminal Procedure Code specifies that a post-mortem should be conducted by a government medical officer, Dr Shahidan said the presence of the Thai forensic pathologist to give opinions during the examination would be acceptable.

“There is nothing wrong in having the involvement of a foreign pathologist to assist in a post- mortem, since this is for a good purpose. Since she’s sharing knowledge and is present just to help, it should be fine.”

He added that there was no reason for Dr Pornthip’s involvement in the post-mortem to reflect badly on local pathologists as it was just merely to get a second opinion — a practice that is common in medical circles.

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