Pakistani police investigate doctors who refused to treat Christian sanitary worker

Pakistani police are investigating the three doctors accused of negligence for allegedly refusing to treat a Christian sanitary worker who had been overwhelmed by toxic fumes while cleaning a sewer during the holy month of Ramadan.

(REUTERS / Thomson Reuters Foundation / Aamir Saeed)A labourer works to connect a house to new sewage line in Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan, August 27, 2016.

Irfan Masih, a 30-year-old Christian, was brought to the Taluka Headquarters Hospital in Umarkot on June 1 after he collapsed while cleaning a sewer along Chhor road which had been blocked for four months. His cousin Pervez said the victim was pulled out from the deepest level in the sewer well and that he was breathing and choking, the BBC detailed.

When they brought Irfan to the hospital, one doctor saw him and instructed a ward boy to wash the patient. The chief doctor also came by but did not tend to the injured Christian worker, while another doctor told the ward boy to administer oxygen.

"I pleaded with him that Irfan was seriously ill and he must examine him right away," said Pervez of the first doctor who came to see his cousin. "But he said he was fasting [for Ramadan], and that Irfan was covered in sewage filth. He went away."

The ward boy, on the other hand, did not wash the patient and instead concentrated on trying to insert a cannula in his wrist but could not locate a vein. Pervez said he continued to plead with the other staff to treat his cousin, and he also cleaned up Irfan's face so that he could perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

That was the time that the ward boy put an oxygen mask on Irfan's mouth, but the cylinder he brought seemed to have no oxygen. A fourth doctor named Hanif Aresar came in, embraced the patient even though his body was still unwashed, and tried manual resuscitation. Unfortunately, Irfan was already dead.

Modern Tokyo Times says Ramadan is a dangerous time for non-Muslims in Pakistan. An elderly Hindu was beaten severely for publicly eating food provided to him by a charity. For Irfan, things took a deadly turn after doctors refused to touch his filthy body during the period of fasting.

The chief of the hospital, Dr. Jam Khumbar, denied the allegation that they refused to tend to Irfan and said the patient was already dead upon arrival. He also accused the Christians of violence. However, police investigated him and the two other doctors who were accused of being negligent and of involuntary homicide. Although Khumbar was arrested, he got out on bail.

Meanwhile, the government promised to give one million rupees ($15,000) to Irfan's family, but the victim's mother thinks this is not enough. She wants the guilty to be brought to justice so that the situation will not happen again.

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