Questions now that Thaqif’s death caused by leptospirosis

thaqif-leptospirosisJust over a decade ago, an uncle fell seriously ill from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread by rat urine. He caught the disease on his return from a jungle trek in Taman Negara in Pahang.

The specialists taking care of him sent his samples and swabs to Australia, where the chemical analyses could be carried out within a week. At the time, we were told that the only laboratory which could make an accurate analysis was in Australia.

The elderly uncle pulled through, having spent several days in the ICU of a hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

One would have thought that advances in medical techniques and analysis, would have reached Malaysia, by now. It begs the question, “Why did the parents of 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, have to wait over two months for both post mortem results to be revealed?”

The unexplained delay has increased our sense of outrage and our contempt for the manner in which Thaqif’s parents were kept in the dark about his cause of death.

Not only did the authorities delay both post mortem results, but they did not have the courtesy to tell them the precise day on which they would exhume Thaqif’s body.

On Monday, the director-general for health, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, acted with extreme insensitivity, and disclosed the results of the post mortem to a pack of reporters, before informing Thaqif’s parents. Where is the compassion of the authorities? Why the lack of courtesy and human decency?

Thaqif’s mother, Felda Wani Ahmad, has rejected the findings of the second autopsy. She wondered why leptospirosis had not been detected when her son was first hospitalised. She also questioned why it had been necessary to amputate both his legs, if indeed his condition was caused by the disease.

Although she has demanded that her lawyer obtain the full results of the second autopsy, will she also demand an independent autopsy?

If it is true that Thaqif died from leptospirosis, then where did he contract the disease from? The school where he had spent the previous months in? His home, where his mother took him after he complained of being beaten? The hospital where he died?

The symptoms of the disease are somewhat flu-like; high temperatures, vomiting, headaches, swellings, chills and fatigue. One in ten will develop more severe symptoms, which will affect the kidney and liver, causing jaundice, and internal bleeding. Why was this disease not detected, when Thaqif was admitted?

Thaqif’s death, his beating, his post-mortem results and his exhumation have been badly handled. The authorities kept the parents guessing. They did not show transparency or commitment. The blame kept shifting from one agency to another.

Many of us feel that we are being led on another wild goose-chase. While we wonder how Thaqif could have contracted leptospirosis, we have neglected to punish the assistant warden, who beat the soles of the boy’s feet. This punishment contravenes the human rights convention on torture.

Thaqif’s privately-run tahfiz school was not properly regulated. There are many others like it.

When Thaqif died, we were told that JAKIM would assume control of all tahfiz schools. If they have, why have the details not been made public? Has the Ministry of Education no role to play in the education of young boys?

If leptospirosis was indeed the cause of Thaqif’s death, then hygiene in schools should also be a top priority. For the moment, Thaqif’s parents should press for an independent post-mortem.

It has become crystal clear that rather than put an end to the mystery surrounding the boy’s death, this latest revelation that he died from leptospirosis has only served to open a new can of worms with many questions still left unanswered.

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