The Sindh Cabinet has approved the Sindh Injured Persons Compulsory Medical Treatment (Amal Umer) Act 2019 ten months after it was passed by the provincial assembly and more than a year after Amal Umer’s death. While the Sindh Chief Minister’s assent for a more detailed legislation on the issue is welcome, it is important to understand that the problem of injured persons being denied emergency services until medico-legal formalities have been completed is not something that will be easily solved with a new law in place.

Sindh already had a very similar law in force since 2014, as does Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Balochistan and Punjab have had more or less the same law since 2004. The new Act is a positive step in that it categorically states that all hospitals must ensure proper care to those injured and increases the monetary penalty of those found in violation but begs the question of how the treatment was denied to Amal in the first place. There was already a law in place that carries a potential three-year prison sentence, as opposed to other provinces only having two years of imprisonment for the same crime.

This is a clear indictment of the inability of the provincial government to implement the law, and that is not something that will be solved even now. The government must now look to implement Article 17 of the new law, which implores the Health Department to carry out regular awareness campaigns of the new law and the right of injured persons to healthcare. The provincial government must also follow through on the second half of the Supreme Court’s instructions, complete the inquiry regarding the denial of healthcare to Amal at the National Medical Centre, Karachi. Those involved must be brought to justice – this is the only way to ensure actual deterrence. A ten-year old was denied healthcare in a place where life is sacred; repercussions are needed.