Medical confidentiality

Imran’s medical reports’ publication was ethically dubious

There was much chortling in coalition ranks after Health Services Minister Abdul Qadir Patel made public the report of the medical examination of PTI chief Imran Khan, in which it was claimed that not only was cocaine and alcohol was found in his urine, that his leg showed no sign of his being shot, and that he showed signs of derangement; even though he was also certified as mentally fit to be imprisoned. However, there was no mention of the ethical and legal implications. Even if it is accepted that a medical examination conducted by a government hospital is credible, there is still no ethical justification for it to be handed over to the federal Health Minister, and for him to release it to the public. In principle, there should be no release of such information without the permission of the patient, and the public would be left to draw its own conclusions from any refusal.

While the tests conducted at the Shaukat Khanum Hospital have been impugned because of his association with it, his refusal to submit to tests at any government hospital have damaged the case against his assailants. However, though his tests were conducted now at a hospital officially designated as competent to issue medico legal certificates, the manner the results were treated have now made the hospital doubtful as a source of such certificates. While few cases will involve ministerial interference, other official interference, especially by the local police, may well be alleged. It will create a possibly impossible situation for a trial court, where it is required to throw out all the medical evidence in a case because it originates from a certificate issued by PIMS.

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Mr Khan’s consumption of prohibited substances has been long alleged, while the coalition has also experienced doubts about his mental health. It has even been alleged that Mr Khan’s reluctance to be arrested is because he wished to avoid undergoing a blood test. It is technically possible to falsify results, but it is dangerous. The coalition should remember that PML(N) supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif was allowed to go abroad after his medical tests, conducted at a government hospital, showed that his platelet count was elevated. Medical tests are not supposed to provide political cannon fodder, and medicolegal certificates should only be shared with authorised people, which cannot include the Health Minister.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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