Liberia: Pathologist Cancels Trip Due to Monkeypox

​Min. Rennie: 'the Ministry of Justice emphasizes that its request for a license is in keeping with the requirements of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council.'

The pathologist appointed by the late Princess Cooper's family to conduct a second autopsy on her remains says his inability to fly to Liberia is due to the recent outbreak of monkeypox in 23 countries across the world, including Nigeria, where at least one person died of the disease.

The pathologist from the Philippines, in an email response to the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, cited the “outbreak of Monkeypox in West Africa as one of the reasons for my inability to travel to Liberia to conduct the second autopsy”, as agreed upon with the family of the deceased, along with their lawyer, Tiawan Gongloe, and the former president of the Liberia Council of Churches, Bishop Kortu Brown.

Dr. Servillano Ritualo, according to a government release,  also mentioned several issues he deemed concerning, mainly his displeasure with the government's request for a medical license that qualifies him as a pathologist. 

“He contends that he previously practiced in Liberia, specifically during the Angel Tokpa case; notwithstanding the fact that a medical license is renewed annually by the country in which one practices — in this case, the Philippines,” ​Ledgerhood Rennie, Minister of Information.

Rennie added that “The Ministry of Justice emphasizes that its request for a license is in keeping with the requirements of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council, for the grant of temporary licensure to perform such medical service in the country.” 

Dr. Servillano Ritualo's excuse comes as Liberia is yet to register a single case of the monkeypox virus, and six weeks after Justice Minister Dean had requested him to provide his requisite credentials and qualifications “as required by the Liberia Medical and Dental Association.” 

Monkeypox is an extremely rare disease, a much less severe cousin of smallpox, which experts noted is spread by close and prolonged contact with an infected individual. The virus is endemic near tropical rainforests in central and west Africa, but it has increasingly been seen near urban areas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The issue of a second autopsy came after President George Weah on April 18, directed the Minister of Justice to lend support to the bereaved family, in their quest to bring closure to the circumstances surrounding Ms. Cooper’s death.

The family had earlier rejected the  government-approved autopsy report, which was released on April 18, by Drs. Benedict Kolee and his colleague, Zoebon B. Kpadeh, which claimed that Princess died mainly of progressive secondary pulmonary tuberculosis.

The lifeless body of 25-year-old Princess Cooper was found face-down in a pool of blood in a fence behind the Fawaz building material store at the ELWA junction.

Her family last week accused the government of blocking the family’s authorized pathologist from entering the country to conduct the autopsy; however, the government has disputed such claims on grounds that Dr. Ritualo has failed to provide a copy of his license, as requested.

The family, through its spokesperson, Dr. Abel Momo, claimed that “the government had made it difficult for them to bring in forensic pathologists, many of whom “have cited resistance from the government before declining the process, leaving the family with no choice but to demand the body for a befitting burial.”

“With that, we’ve realized that indeed there are difficulties, constraints, and unfairness in treading the path to justice within our nation, whereas we can now confirm this road to obtaining justice will be a rocky path,” he said.

However, the government in its latest release has reiterated its position for the family of Ms. Cooper to designate another pathologist with the requisite credentials and qualifications from anywhere in the world to conduct the agreed second autopsy.

“​With this new development, the Attorney General [Dean] urges the Liberia Council of Churches, Civil Society Organizations, and concerned institutions and individuals to work with and encourage the family to designate a new pathologist as the government, remains fully committed to the conduct of a second autopsy to allay all allegations and claims regarding the cause of Princess’ death, and bring proper closure to this matter,” Min. Rennie said.