A brainless hospital in Lahore hired a fake brain surgeon

Published: April 16, 2016

File photo of a doctor drawing medicine into a syringe. PHOTO: AFP

Ms Maima worked as a neurosurgeon at one of Pakistan’s most prominent government hospitals at Punjab, Services Hospital Lahore. There, she worked on numerous patients, performing several brain surgeries for a period of eight months.

One fine day, Professor Dr Rizwan Masood Butt, the head of the Neurosurgery Department, asked her routine questions during a medical round. To his alarm, she failed to answer properly.

You see, Ms Maima, who had been working on the brains of patients at Pakistan’s second biggest hospital for so long, was actually a fake. Yes, this fake brain surgeon had outsmarted all the brainless people working at the hospital.

Well, except for Dr Masood. Well, at least he caught on after eight months.

After he shared his concerns with the hospital administration, her credentials were sent to the relevant bodies for verification. Eventually, the hospital, and I’d like to reiterate that this is the second largest hospital in Pakistan, discovered that Ms Maima’s degrees were as real as Santa Claus.

As we all know, you qualify for your work either through experience, or education, or both, but at least one or the other.

Now, if my mechanic’s qualifications are dicey, I don’t mind as long as he is experienced and can get the job done, because mechanics usually learn after experimenting on hundreds of vehicles.

But a surgeon?

Anyone operating on my body better know what they are doing, or I’ll come back to haunt them from the dead.

I’m sure Ms Maima felt that, like a mechanic, she too could learn on the job, except these aren’t cars we are talking about, but human bodies. One mistake could either leave a patient dead or sipping liquid food through a cup for the rest of their lives.

How did it take this hospital eight months to see through this brain teaser? Did they not catch her before, because she was performing better than the other neurosurgeons? If so, what does it say about the rest of the department?

Needless to say, anyone being hired at the hospital should have their degrees checked again and again. We constantly hear horror stories of medical negligence in Pakistan. There are multiple factors behind this, of course, but are some of these doctors simply not qualified?

Of course, there is also another pattern in Pakistan, where we simply accept professionals without formal checks. Ms Maima was only fired from her job. Why isn’t she in prison? Why isn’t the hospital administration not in prison for allowing a fake brain doctor to operate on trusting patients?

Sadly, the answers point to another disease in Pakistan: nepotism.

Ms Maima was given her job because her fiancé, Dr Jafar, was a person of influence, and carried a leadership position in the Young Doctors Association (YDA). He, apparently, had strong armed the hospital administration into giving Ms Maima her job.

It’s common knowledge that politics are a major component in many medical schools. While my own sister was studying medicine in Karachi, I would learn of numerous incidents where young male doctors-to-be would get involved in political fights in which hockey sticks and broken chairs were used as weapons.

Yes, these same young men would eventually go on to become doctors. Or perhaps they were merely trying to create more patients for their field.

This entire incident isn’t the actual disease. Rather, it is merely a symptom of a deeper problem in Pakistan. While the matter was brought up in the Punjab Assembly, I doubt that either Ms Maima or Dr Jafar will be punished considering their ‘connections’. Although the blame will fall on the hospital administration, as it should, the deeper illness that festers this foul corruption in our system will be left ignored.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.