Forensic: The forensic department of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu will have laboratory facilities for DNA analysis, basic forensic toxicology and basic forensic histo-pathology analysis by June next year.

Currently, the department is unable to offer standard and expected services because of a lack of such diagnostic facilities.

Forensic specialist, Dr Norbu, said that it is strongly felt that diagonistic facilities like DNA typing, toxicological and histo-pathological laboratory facilities are needed for any standard medico-legal services.

Currently, the samples are sent to India and Sri Lanka for analysis.

Dr Norbu said that getting results take long and most of the time the reports are not useful due to deterioration of the specimens during transport. There is also the question of chain of custody as well as accuracy and validity in a Court of Law.

Medical superintendent, Dr Gosar Pemba, said that without the diagnostic facilities in the department, most of the medico-legal opinions are based on presumption rather than facts with a possibility of wrong opinions and miscarriage of justice.

For instance, if a person has an unnatural death, it is difficult to find the cause of the death. If the person takes drugs then we assume that he or she died of a drug overdose.  “It is all circumstantial,” Dr Gosar Pemba said. “Once the department has forensic toxicology analysis in place, the department will be able to tell how exactly a person, who had an unnatural death, died.”

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing is mainly for paternity dispute where it established if someone is the biological parent of a child. The test is used to determine family relationship between two people.

DNA testing is also useful in solving crimes. Suspects involved in a crime can be identified with a small sample of blood or a tissue. Blood on a knife, a weapon or a root of a hair contains enough DNA for testing.

The budget for the forensic laboratory facilities is approved in the 11th Plan. The Indian government funded the establishment of the forensic DNA analysis facility at a cost of Nu 2.5 million while toxicology and histo-patology analysis facilities will be established at a cost of Nu 2.2 million and 1.7 million respectively.

The old Public Health Laboratory structure in the referral hospital is identified as a possible site for the forensic laboratory as the structure has all the facilities for a laboratory setting.

The forensics medicine department currently provides clinical forensic medicine and forensic pathology services. The department has a forensic medicine specialist, two forensic health assistants and a ward boy.

Dechen Tshomo