By Otchere Darko
The sudden death of Mills has prompted me to write again for Ghanaweb, even though lack of time had forced me to stop writing and submitting articles to this site. Like many other Ghanaians, I strongly believe that Mills’ death should be referred to the coroner for investigation to: ESTABLISH ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT LED TO THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT MILLS
Even though the details of the late president’s illness was always shrouded in secrecy [for political reasons, one may guess], after his death Ghanaians have come to know through various authentic sources that the late Ghanaian leader was suffering from “throat cancer”. Ghanaians, therefore, believe that the immediate cause of the death of late president will was certainly his “throat cancer”. Most Ghanaians, as a matter of fact, do not think or believe that the president’s death was the result of a ‘foul play’. However, a reasonable number of Ghanaians, if not most Ghanaians, believe that non-medical factors played a role in his death, quite apart from the medical factors that most Ghanaians have become aware of since his death, thanks to authentic sources like the BBC World News.
Most Ghanaians wonder why the late president, very learned as he was, would continue to ‘overwork’ himself, or even continue to hold the difficult office of President of Ghana and, thus, put his cancer at a risk of deterioration. Most Ghanaians believe that President Mills was too intelligent to misunderstand his health conditions. If so, why did the late president put his health at a risk? Was he so patriotic that he was prepared to die for his country and leave his wife and son to grieve and weep? Or, was there so much political pressure put on the late president that he literally became ‘a prisoner of his office’? If any unreasonable political pressure was put on the late president which forced him to become ‘a prisoner of his office’ against his will, then where did the pressure come from, and why was it put on him? Did ‘excessive’ criticism, insults, and negative comments about the performance of the late president contribute to the worsening of his cancer? If so, was the President likely to live longer if certain things had been done, or had not been done? What political lessons need to be leant as a result of the death in office of President Mills?
One could continue for a long time to ask these ‘non-medical questions’, if one had the time to do so. A post mortem report cannot answer these ‘non-medical questions’; but a coroner’s report can. A coroner does not need to be a pathologist or any other medical specialist. A coroner can call other people to give evidence or provide some information. He can also co-opt people with specialist knowledge to assist him with his investigation. Further, the legal powers of a coroner are broader than those of a pathologist who conducts a post mortem on the body of a deceased person. Of course, a coroner’s investigation takes longer time to complete than a pathologist’s post mortem investigation; but a coroner can answer all the questions that a pathologist conducting a post mortem cannot answer. It is in the light of the above relative advantages associated with a coroner’s report that the law requires certain deaths to be referred to the coroner for a coroner’s report to be made, rather than to a pathologist for a post mortem report.
I personally understand why President Mills’ funeral could not be delayed till his death had been referred to a coroner and, further, till a coroner’s report had been completed and submitted to the government. If there was such a delay, the waiting and the facts emanating from the coroner’s report could spoil the subsequent funeral of the late president. So the holding of the funeral of the late president now, while his death has not been referred to a coroner, is in order. However, I suggest that as soon as the funeral celebration is over, the late president’s death should be referred to a coroner for the full circumstances surrounding it to be established.
Ghanaians deserve to know the ‘non-medical factors’ that played a part in the death of the late president. It is their right to seek this information, because President Mills was a public figure when he was alive. It is wrong for people to argue that the cause [or causes] of the death of the late president is [or are] private and must belong to his family only. Apart from the fact that the late president was a public figure, knowing what ‘non-medical factors’ contributed towards his death , [assuming there were such ‘non-medical factors’], will guide future presidents of Ghana in particular, and Ghanaian politicians in general, to factor that information into their political life and work. Secondly, should it be deemed necessary, the information from the coroner’s report would also serve as a basis to make needed amendment to the constitution to control the exertion of ‘unreasonable’ political pressure on a sitting president from wherever such pressure comes from, [if indeed such political pressure was ever exerted on the late president while he was in office].
*If the government fails to refer President Mills’ death to a coroner soon after the funeral of the late president, some concerned Ghanaian or Ghanaians, [I believe], will apply to the High Court for an order to compel the Government of Ghana to refer the late president’s death to a coroner. Ghanaians of today are politically mature and, therefore, they now know their individual [human] rights and their [civic] responsibilities. No government should toy with Ghanaians anymore.
By: Otchere Darko [The writer studied Hospital Administration and has a ‘fair working knowledge’ of the law relating to hospital and other health related matters].