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Forensic exhumation a big challenge for Tanzanian medics

A forensic expert proposes the establishment of a government chief pathologist's office that will be responsible for overseeing forensic pathology and related medical services.

Although the law requires ‘government’ medical practitioners to perform forensic exhumation and human remains identification when necessary, the majority of them lack the necessary expertise in medico-legal investigation. Speaking exclusively to The Citizen, Mr Wilson Jilala, a forensic expert from the National Museum of Tanzania, said the matter is fuelled by the fact that the country’s medical training curriculum does not offer such.

“It is unfortunate, the medical training curriculum in Tanzania for many years did not offer any courses of forensic exhumation and identification of human skeletal remains,” the forensic expert noted.

Mr Jilala explained that all forensic operations were undertaken by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Even after independence there was no special law governing post-mortem examinations of corpses during the police investigation until 1980 when the Inquest Act was enacted.

Moreover, after the law was passed, it stated that the matter of post-mortem examination during the police investigation would be done by medical practitioners. In his study dubbed: ‘Forensic exhumation and human remains identification: A gap between the Inquest Act 1980 and medico-legal education in Tanzania’, the forensic expert urged that the medical curriculum was not updated to accommodate appropriate sections to meet the legal requirements.

As a result, the gap between legal requirements and medicolegal practices for medical practitioners in Tanzania was created, thus a challenge to medical practitioners who lack exhumation skills and human remains identification techniques.

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