24 July 2014

Tanzania: Body Parts Dumping Irks Many

Photo: Daily News
Cadavers dumped in an open space outside Dar es Salaam.

FOLLOWING the weird incident of dumping parts of human bodies in a valley at Mbweni Mpiji area in Kinondoni Municipality in Dar es Salaam on Monday, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) is pushing for immediate investigations and a clear-cut explanation on the issue.

In the same vein, the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) has strongly condemned the incident, referring to sanctions, including immediate closure, which had been taken against an institution that was involved in a similar abominable act in some other country.

So far, eight staff members of the International Medical and Technological University (IMTU), including doctors, are helping the police in their investigations in connection with the macabre discovery.

Deputy Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr Steven Kebwe condemned the incident, describing it as an inhuman act whose perpetrators should not left to go scot free. He pledged "painstaking investigations after which suspected offenders should be made to feel the full brunt of the law".

"This is an unusual happening that we must condemn in the strongest possible terms. There are many medical colleges in Tanzania, including the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), but we have never heard that they have done such a disgusting thing," he observed.

He added that the human body must be handled with care and treated with all the respect it deserves, further observing that the dumping act was a true reflection of decaying morals and violations of laws.

Dr Kebwe affirmed that the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) was supposed to take action against the college's management for its decision to dispose the bodies in area close to a residential neighbourhood instead of incinerating them.

MAT President Dr Primus Saidia affirmed that the incident was a gross violation of laws, human rights and medical ethics.

"The act makes the institution involved to disqualify itself from using human bodies in conducting practical lessons... and if it is a hospital then the incident automatically disqualifies it from offering medical services to human beings," he stressed.

The association has called on the relevant authorities to take immediate legal and disciplinary measures against the perpetrators.

The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Services, Ms Margaret Sitta, appealed to relevant bodies investigate the matter and find out the reasons behind the ghastly act. "The entire affair is not only immoral but also frightening.

I am thankful to the police and other pertinent authorities for their immediate response as it has come to our attention that investigations are going on while a number of suspects have been held," she said.

MoEVT Permanent Secretary Professor Sifuni Mchome told the 'Daily News' that the police, MoHSW, Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) and MoEVT have embarked on investigations to establish the reasons behind the act.

He pointed out that after the report on the investigations, which he said would be presented without delay, necessary legal and disciplinary measures will be taken against the institution and all other persons who were involved in the matter. "It is too early now to say exactly what our stand on this matter is.

After the investigations and basing on the expected report, we are going to announce measures to be taken against the institution right away," he declared.

An intern doctor from one of the Dar es Salaam-based medical colleges, talking on condition of anonymity, told the 'Daily News' that they were using human bodies in their practical lessons but had never seen such bodies being dumped in such an undignified manner.

He explained that in all years of bachelor degree studies, medical students, according to the current curriculum, were supposed to use cadavers in one semester of the first year lessons. "Where does the college exactly get these bodies?" is the question which he said ran deep in their minds.

However, according to him, they were made to believe that they could be bodies of those who died in the hospitals whose relatives failed to collect. He noted that the bodies were kept to last for number of years and after practical lessons were returned to the mortuary for preservation.

"To avoid trauma related to dealing with bodies of relatives, some people, though I am not so sure, were saying that medical colleges have been exchanging cadavers with other universities," he further noted.

He explained that the exchange, if really that was the case in Tanzania, was a good programme because it checks against a student being presented with a body of a person he or she knows.

TCU Principal Communications Officer Mr Edward Mkaku also observed that the commission was only mandated to recognise, approve, register and accredit universities operating in Tanzania, leaving the institutions to handle their own teaching modalities.

He however, maintained that after the investigations, which have also included a representative from the commission, being the coordinating body, TCU will take legal action in accordance with recommendations from the investigation team.

Reached for comment yesterday, the Dar es Salaam Special Zonal Police Commander, Mr Suleiman Kova, said investigations into the matter were still going on and thus could not give more details.

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