Imagine being a victim of horrific violence due to the absence of humanity or a moment of temporary insanity. Or perhaps being a victim of circumstance simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine being rendered silent to death. Literally. Imagine having to bring the horrific brutalities inflicted upon you to your grave. Imagine the anguish your loved ones suffer through every time they think of you. Imagine. Imagine. Imagine.
Dr Rohayu Shahar Adnan goes beyond imagining these circumstances and has been relentlessly shedding light on her patients, representing so many who were silenced to death.
‘A Dead Body Never Lies’ they say, and Dr Rohayu Shahar Adnan can’t hardly agree more. So much that she went on to collaborate with Fatin Amin on a book of said title, to shine light on the wealth of information contained within the strands of our hair right down to the tip of our toes.
A seasoned Forensic Pathologist who is now currently Head of the Forensic Department in Sungai Buloh Hospital, Dr Rohayu has been expertly interpreting “stories” of her patients for years and has yet to come across one that she has gotten tired of. Driven by passion for pathology, Dr Rohayu has been dedicating her life as a forensic pathologist to ensure countless of patients have their stories heard. Patients from all walks of life, tender aged to golden years, she’s seen it all and then some. Her bubbly and warm personality betrays the true nature of her job which is anything but. Having seen the lowest depths humankind can sink to, Dr. Rohayu fiercely protects her patients’ rights to be “heard” and “seen” by the law. This serves as closure for their loved ones and ensures that the very tenets of justice continue to be upheld.
Dr Rohayu may have had humble beginnings, but her drive and ambition has been anything but. She had decided early on that becoming a doctor was something she wanted and armed with steely determination, Dr Rohayu was among the highest performing students in her programme of Diploma in Microbiology in UITM Shah Alam. The year was 1993 and the selection process for medical school in Malaysia was extremely tough. Selection was limited to 1 male and 1 female student per each higher learning institution and Dr. Rohayu had missed the selection hardly by a mile.
Supporting her ambition tirelessly was her mother who then decided they would send in an application to study medicine at IMU and as they say the rest is history. Dr Rohayu went on to complete her studies at the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland and came home having her loan converted into a full scholarship. Till this day she looks back on that as one of her biggest achievements dedicated for her mother.
She then commenced her Housemanship at Seremban General Hospital followed by medical officer placement at Klang General Hospital where she particularly enjoyed General Surgery. She fondly recalls the urgent, fast paced nature of General Surgery and admits that besides her love for pathology, General Surgery was a field she had a strong interest in.
Career as a Forensic Pathologist
At that time of practicing, Pathology had yet to become a burgeoning field in Malaysia especially in the hospital where she practiced her medical skill. Nonetheless, the deep-rooted interest of pathology consumed her and Dr Rohayu decided to pursue her Masters in Forensic Pathology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Upon completion of her Masters, Dr Rohayu went on to Hospital Kuala Lumpur where she began her career as a Forensic Pathologist. To her keen mind, forensic pathology is akin to solving a puzzle. A complex puzzle, intricate and exhilarating down to very last detail.
Serving in Hospital Sultan Ismail, Johor Bahru was undeniably where Dr Rohayu had more than her fair share of interesting cases. Ranging from horrifying, downright unbelievable and heart wrenching to the core, each case was highly personal as Dr Rohayu is perpetually inundated with the highest sense of responsibility. Every patient before her has been treated with utmost respect and a solemn vow that nothing but the truth no matter how inconvenient or who it implicates will be brought forward. Aside from fulfilling her oath as a medical practitioner, Dr Rohayu believes its just as important to furnish succinct details to her patients’ loved ones to allow them to grieve and heal from their loss. It’s a question of according her patients their rightful last rites as much as it is about ensuring justice is served when necessary.
Her duties include being an expert witness and as she sincerely states, appearing in court is an extension of her responsibilities and one that she honors. Dr Rohayu has been in and out of court testifying her findings and reports and subjected to intense scrutiny by defense lawyers. This serves as further motivation for Dr Rohayu to be consistently thorough with all her cases. Despite it all, she remains steadfast in her mission to represent her patients who are unable to do so themselves.
Dr Rohayu’s foray into writing came about after she was continuously encouraged by a good friend to write a book about the cases she had worked on. This idea was further supported by her dear mother who felt that Dr Rohayu was sitting on a wealth of experience that should be shared with the world. A legacy of her work formally documented for all to read and learn from. And so, Dr Rohayu began penning a selection of cases together with Fatin Amin.
In 2020, Penguin Random House published her book ‘A Dead Body Never Lies’ and it has been in circulation domestically and internationally. If anything, it’s certainly a feat to be inordinately proud of as it’s the first of its kind here in Malaysia and every case shared is purely nonfictional. Her book is generously peppered with photos from her case files and gives readers a somewhat in depth look at her work and into the world of a forensic pathologist. It is truly an amazing opportunity to look underneath the covers at forensic pathology in Malaysia and one that is worth the read.
As much as it seems as Dr Rohayu has seen her fair share of morbid things, she is far from the conclusion of her work and is certain that there are still great mysteries left to solve within the anatomy of the human body.