Wasim Akram: apologetic (Source: Reuters)
You may recall that after Huma's death in Chennai in October last year, Akram had not only alleged that Lahore-based pulmonologist and critical-care specialist Dr. Kamran Chima had demanded money to arrange an air ambulance for her but had also called private hospitals - such as the Doctors Hospital and the National Hospital - which initially treated her, "slaughterhouses." This had set in motion a whole series of events whereby the health ministry, after a hastily concluded investigation, had suspended the licenses of some 17 doctors "for negligence."
The doctors, particularly Dr. Kamran Chima, had fought back by suing Akram for 50 crore rupees for defamation. In his lawsuit, Dr. Chima had pointed to the medical report from Chennai, which according to him, proved that Huma's case was untreatable and that she had, in fact, received the best possible medical care in Lahore despite the fact that the family had allegedly hid certain patient history from the doctors. It seems the lawsuit obviously worked.
Akram has beat a grovelling retreat. An image of his statement issued to the media is given below:
Meanwhile, the Doctors Hospital and doctors treating Huma in Lahore have issued a subsequent statement which reads as follows:
By Doctors and Hospitals treating (late) Mrs. Huma Akram
"Mr. Wasim Akram has issued a statement clarifying matters in respect of the treatment of his late wife (Mrs. Huma Akram). He has been gracious to regret making certain statements and has also corrected the record concerning certain other statements made by him which were misunderstood at the time they were made. Indeed he has shown statesmanship by stating that he holds the medical community in high esteem.
The clarifications issued by Mr. Wasim Akram include the following :
• He has categorically stated that neither Dr. Kamran Chima nor any other doctor ever asked him for money/commission for arranging air ambulance service. He has clarified that information provided regarding the cost of air ambulance incurred by another patient was for him to assess his options, and has acknowledged that there was no semblance of impropriety in this regard.
• He has apologised for calling National and Doctors Hospitals as ‘slaughterhouses’ and has noted that he should not have said this.
• He has acknowledged that hospitals provide much needed medical care to patients and medical staff in the vast majority of cases work hard to treat patients to the best of their ability. He has in particular acknowledged that Dr. Kamran Chima, a well known pulmonologist and critical care specialist of Lahore, devoted considerable time treating Mrs. Akram (including seeing her on a couple of occasions past 1 AM in the morning) and that all calls and SMSs by Mr. Wasim Akram to Dr. Chima were duly responded, by a return call or personal visit.
• He has noted that he based his earlier views on the report prepared by the inquiry committee constituted by the Government. He understands that the doctors involved have expressed serious reservations regarding this report. He notes that the matter is pending before the honourable Lahore High Court and has stated that he has no objection to any order being passed by the honorable Lahore High Court which it considers appropriate.
• While stating that he has no personal grudge or animosity towards any of the doctors involved in the treatment of his late wife, he has expressed regret if any doctor has unnecessarily been subjected to adverse action arising from this incident.
• He has clarified that his intent was only to have proper and fair investigation which may help improvement of systems to protect the interests of citizens as well as medical practitioners. The doctors and hospitals involved in the treatment of Mrs. Akram would like to place on record our deep appreciation for the aforesaid clarifications, and fully accept the following explanation by Mr. Akram:
“Soon after the death of my late wife, I was overwhelmed by her loss. My late wife was not just a spouse but also my professional adviser and friend. I had to take her by air ambulance for treatment and then later had to return with her body in a charter plane from Delhi. Due to these traumatic circumstances, I now recognize that I may have said things (in private and in public forums) which led listeners to understand otherwise than what is stated herein. To the extent that my previous statements may have been misleading, I would like to apologise and to correct the record in terms of this statement.”
Needless to add, Mr. Wasim Akram is a national cricketing hero and we hold him in respect. We would also like to reiterate our deepest condolences to him and his family on the tragic passing away of his wife."
Plainly, an out-of-court settlement has been reached in which Akram was forced to apologize and retract in return for the lawsuit to be dropped.
This does not, of course, mean that medical care in Pakistan is generally brilliant or even adequate (God knows that's an understatement!). Only that in this particular high-profile case, the allegations were wild and unfounded. What this also means is that government ministries and the parliament (the inquiry was conducted by parliamentarians) really need to stop jumping to conclusions without adequate expertise or understanding of the issues.
It also means that media people and activists on the net, who often think that any defamation, character assassination or witch-hunt is acceptable simply because in the larger context their anger is justified, need to seriously be more concerned about facts. In this particular case, the Huma Akram case was used to hound doctors in general and the concerned hospitals in particular, mainly because it seemed to fit into a pattern of negligence by medical care staff after the Imanae Malik case. Not only could they in their zeal be destroying the lives of decent folks, such half-baked activism also ends up with them having egg on their face. Which of course does not do their noble cause any good.