If nature had a voice, would it scream in agony, wail in misery, or weep silently? Would the Eastern Winds have blown away every single branch from the green trees? Perhaps the rivers would have overflowed and flooded the world with pure contempt? That particular bright sunny day during the Holy month of Ramadan was darker than any night. Not because somebody died that day, no. Thousands die each day all over the world. But plain and brutal murder was committed by those sworn to save lives. Murder in plain daylight, with witnesses gazing in silence. It wasn’t the death of a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Pagan or a member any religious faith. No, that was the day all of humanity died. In fact, it was ruthlessly asphyxiated when Irfan Masih succumbed to death while breathing his last outside a civil hospital as he was denied treatment by a medicinal practitioner from the Umerkot region. Hence I wonder if nature had a voice, would it not curse the human race for its discrimination, its bigotry, and its despicable insensitivity. The media and civil society played a pivotal role by highlighting the case of Irfan Masih and bringing an issue of utmost importance to light; the menace of medical negligence and malpractice which is mostly covered up by the administrators of public and private medical institutions. Last week on 17 October, Sameera Bibi’s case came to our attention. The woman who gave birth on a barren street as she was refused entry to a hospital by the hospital staff. The Tehsil Headquarters Hospital outside which she gave birth is in close proximity to ousted Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Raiwind home. This shows us the deplorable state of public hospitals and how neglected the rights of the common man are in this day and age. This just another incident amongst hundreds that go unreported. Earlier this year Zohra Bibi died on the floor of Jinnah hospital as the medical facility had a shortage of beds. The marginalised transgender community has been subjected to immense mental torture numerous times. Reportedly, they have been denied access to hospital wards. Earlier this year a transgender person passed away as a result of not being treated on time since the hospital staff did not know whether to place her in a male ward or a female ward Conversely, gender discrimination in healthcare runs rampant and deteriorates the moral fabric of our society. Recently in Peshawar, the management of Khyber Medical College outright refused to store the body of a transgender person who was murdered in their morgue. According to Taimur Kamal, a rights activist, “this is the 53rd transgender person killed since 2015 and we have around 300 cases of violence on record including rape, gang rape, kidnapping and torture.” If one observes the past they can discern that the marginalised transgender community has been subjected to immense mental torture numerous times. Reportedly, they have been denied access to hospital wards. Earlier this year a transgender person passed away as a result of not being treated on time since the hospital staff did not know whether to place her in a male ward or a female ward. Medical malpractice is an issue that is not only restricted to our country, it is a universal concern. However, developed countries have investigative bodies and regulatory authorities set up to investigate and establish whether a patient died due to natural causes or as a result of human error. Doctors in developed countries are under constant pressure from lawyers who deal with paralegal medical advisory committees. Medics and medical professionals are flanked and followed by legal teams and are subject to thorough accountability if found guilty. For example, the General Medical Council (GMC) of England oversees the ethics, integrity and service delivery of all medical practitioners. If a medic or doctor is found guilty of any case of medical negligence the GMC is empowered to revoke their license. Numerous cases in Pakistan are reported each year where aggrieved parties have filed complaints related to malpractice by practitioners but justice or any compensation is hardly ever served to the aggrieved. Medical Negligence can be claimed in lawsuits. It occurs when a doctor or other medical, psychiatric, or healthcare professional or institution breaches their standard of care when treating a patient and the breach results in injury, death or a worsened medical situation. Although we do have legislation to protect the public’s rights and revoke the licenses of doctors who are guilty of malpractice, the legal framework by which the constitution safeguards the right of citizens does exist. According to Section 318 of Pakistan Penal Code 1860, “Whoever, without any intention to cause the death of or cause harm to a person causes the death of such person, either by mistake of, act or by mistake of fact, is said to commit Qatl-i-Khata.” Also, Section 304-A PPC 1860 specifically provides that “Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” What requires attention is that although the above laws are present in letter they are not in spirit. Hence there is dire need of proper implementation. On the other hand, there are a plethora of imminent problems that serve as obstacles which continue to be overlooked. Although we do have legislation to protect the public’s rights and revoke the licenses of doctors who are guilty of malpractice, the legal framework by which the constitution safeguards the right of citizens does exist The sad fact in our country is that although there are standard operating procedures (SOP’s), the general public, especially the ones in rural areas do not have any awareness regarding their accessibility and use. Additionally any visible effort to disseminate the standard operating procedures through any platform or medium to the mainstream public remains absent. Furthermore, the support staffs of the majority of private and public institutions are also unaware of such type of necessary, vital and compulsory information. Whereas, an aspect that requires consideration is that medical negligence on behalf of medical practitioners ultimately increases the ‘disease burden’ on the state. Providing complete knowledge as to which legal procedures to adopt and how the victims can file and pursue litigation in the court of law should be a prerequisite to comply with according to Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. The main problem we are currently facing is that we don’t have proper visionaries and policymakers who can reduce the ‘disease burden’ on the state and strengthen enforcement. Although, the above clauses in the light of our legislations do safeguard the interests of the public as enumerated by the Constitution of the land, yet its application remains lacking. The Secretary of Health along with its regulatory bodies needs to take action and proper enforcement should be carried out rather than consoling citizens with mere words every time an incident of medical negligence is highlighted by the media. There is need of regulatory bodies that are mandated to protect and serve the citizens irrespective of race, gender, creed or class. The writer is a lawyer, social activist, and an author Published in Daily Times, October 26th 2017.