Treatment of gunshot victims

The Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, has renewed the advocacy by the Nigerian Police high command for victims of gunshot wounds to be given adequate and prompt treatment by doctors and medical personnel.

This is a pleasant and welcome departure from the old rule in which such victims were required to present police “clearance” before they could be treated.

In a recent media release through former spokesman of the Force, Mr Emmanuel Ojukwu, the police chief urged medical doctors to treat such victims and file reports with the police in accordance with our laws, adding that the good Samaritans who bring in the victims for treatment should not be harassed or victimised but should be cultivated for their maximum cooperation to enable the law enforcement agencies carry out their job of ascertaining the circumstances behind the gunshot injuries.

Before the change of mind by the police, the idea of rejecting gunshot victims was aimed at ensuring that fleeing criminals would be apprehended before they got well and escaped justice.

But it has since been established that many innocent citizens have lost their lives in the process of waiting for police clearance. Such victims included people caught in crossfires between cops and robbers and other gangsters. Even victims of road accidents have often fallen prey to rejection by doctors.

In fact, many medical personnel have found themselves in messy police cases for offering to treat victims, and this forced most of them to reject any injured person brought in for emergency medical attention.

The change of mind by the police authorities obviously stems from greater awareness of the rights of citizens under the law which was virtually absent during military rule. This is very commendable, even though it is coming rather belatedly.

It must be borne in mind that every citizen – even the alleged or convicted criminal – has the inalienable right to life, and the refusal to administer life-saving treatment under any guise is a gross violation of such rights. And under our laws, everyone is presumed innocent until proved guilty of crimes by competent courts.

Therefore the rejection of treatment for gunshot victims is a violation of our laws and those whose negligence lead to loss of lives or permanent incapacitation risk being made to face the necessary penalties under the law.

Nothing stops medical personnel from treating injured persons while discreetly notifying the law enforcement agents to come in and do their work.

We are glad that the police authorities have woken up to this human rights imperative, and join in urging medical personnel to respond to the call with total commitment, also bearing in mind their professional and sacred call to save lives.

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