As I was completing this write up for publication today, I read an article on the topic this morning written by Mbonu Linus Nwabueze, titled “Bullet Wound Bill, 2008: Hon. Mayor Eze Emphasis” and published in www.Nigeriavillagesquare.com. His article was exhaustive about the issue of doctors insisting on getting a police report from fatally wounded victims of armed robbery, fatal vehicle accidents or even rape victims, before lifting a finger to save their lives.
Almost everything he said in his article was articulated by me, so much that going ahead would not only sound repetitious, but would look as if we compared notes. I had to remove almost half of my entire write up. However, I would like to share some incidents that happened of which I was witness to butress the fact that many innocent Nigerians die in vain because of this senseless tradition. I have never seen any law that requires a hospital to demand a police report from patients before they are treated. The reason why the police harrass hospitals treating victims of violent attacks is incomprehensible. First of all I would like to seize this opportunity to thank Mr. Nwabueze for taking on this issue. I also want to give kudos to Hon. Mayor Eze for his foresight in taking steps to formally sponsor a Bill to eliminate this requirement for doctors to get a police report before saving lives. In my article, I was calling for a Bill that would mandate hospitals to treats victims first, and report to the police later, when the victims have been stabilized, even though I have never seen a law that require doctors or hospitals to seek for police reports before rendering medical services to their fatally wounded patients. I am glad that Hon Eze’s Bill would do just that.
I am still wondering why a human life whether of a saint or of a hardened criminal would be allowed to waste by doctors on the pretext that the police warned them against treating bullet or stab wounds without obtaining a police report. But it still happens in Nigeria every time. The doctors are victims as well since I have heard of doctors that were arrested by the police for aiding criminals, just because they treated victims of bullet wounds without a police report authorizing them to treat the patient. Physicians are under oath to save lives irrespective of their opinions about their patients. This issue of police report has aided in no small way in denying the doctors that opportunity to save lives. You can imagine how many people that have died because of poor medical care and due to inability of patients to pay required deposits to the hospital. Then, you add the number of people that survive attacks armed robbers only to die as a result of this unlawful requirement of police report before medical assistance, and you see that in Nigeria people die for nothing.
In fact, on my last visit to Nigeria between April and May, I traveled to Benin City, Edo State, to visit one of my brothers and his family. As night was drawing near, and with the epileptic power supply, my brother and I decided to go outside and get some fresh air. We headed to his friends chemist shop. We were engrossed with discussion, topic of which was Barack Obama’s phenomenal political exploits in the United States. We were also helping ourselves with some drinks and fresh fish provided by my brother’s friend. While we were deep into our discussion, a shadowy figure busted into our midst and came towards me, holding the right side of his stomach and yelling, “I was shot by armed robbers. I am dying, please, take me to the hospital”. I was shocked to the bone when I looked at him. The delicious fresh fish I was eating turned into ashes in my mouth. He was bleeding profusely and he has lost some amount of blood. My brother and his friends knew him very well.
My brother’s friend, who is a chemist, knew immediately what was obvious: that the victim needed medical attention, and very quickly. He tried as much as he could to stop the bleeding but the victim was bleeding internally. We immediately arrange for a cab and rushed him to the hospital. After he was taken to the hospital, I did not need to be told by my brother that it was time to retire for the night. Rumors flying around were that the man was obviously stabbed by his wife, with whom he fights every time. “He must have been stabbed by his wife, Onome, whom he beats everyday”. But from my experience, I knew it was a bullet wound. We hoped that he made it but I was doubtful judging from the kind of injury and amount of blood he had lost. We retired to my brother’s house and few hours later that night, we learnt that the doctors refused to touch him insisting on seeing a police report about what happened.
He gave up the ghost. We later learned that he was attacked by armed robbers at his flower shop near the Ramat Park in Benin City, that night. He was shot when he was not able to give them enough money for his sales for that day as his wife already left for their home with virtually all the proceeds of sale for the day. The sad part was that after he was shot, he ran about 3 miles to get help, holding his belly with his handkerchief and fighting for his life, only to be failed by the doctor who would save his life. He believed that the doctors would save his life if he makes it to the hospital and that was why he kept fighting for his life even though he lost quite some blood. I was not surprised that he did not make it. It happened all the time. In fact, I have witnessed a person that would have died of stab wounds back in the New Year eve of 1990. This guy was involved in an argument with 2 twin brothers in a restaurant near a church in my town. Obviously, they were all drunk. As they kept yelling at each other, the victim broke his beer bottle and challenged the twins to a fight. Unfortunately for him, the twin brothers were campus cultist (thugs) and they launched towards him and he ran inside the church compound. After a few yards, he fell down. The brothers took the broken bottle from him and stabbed him in his stomach repeatedly. Anyone that has seen a broken Gulder beer bottle knows that it is the sharpest of all beer bottles. When they were done with him, they landed their feet on his stomach and his guts gushed out of his belly laying on the bare sandy soil. It was a gory sight! He was left for dead. If not for the late Reverend Father Vincent De Paul Umekwe in whose parish the incident happened, the victim would have died.
The priest who was rounding up the midnight mass was alerted about the incident and he came out and personally took the victim to St Andrews Catholic Hospital at Adazi-Nnukwu. The priest already knew that if he did not go with the victim, no doctor would touch him; even in the missionary hospital. If not that the priest personally took the victim to the hospital, the victim would not have been alive. I hope that the Bullet Wound Bill would be passed and that it would put this issue to rest. The police, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the general public should be sensitized about this bill to make sure that everyone understands the position of the law about this issue which is that a doctor does not have to request police report from victims of violent assaults and that doctor should only report suspicious wounds to the authorities after the victims must have been stabilized.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters