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CALEB ON ROCA

LGBT communities demand better for Ulysease Roca

“Multiple Organ Failure” is what the post mortem examination certified as the cause of death for 25-year-old Ulysease Roca. Ulysease was found dead inside his home on the afternoon of April 19.

“Multiple Organ Failure” is what the post mortem examination certified as the cause of death for 25-year-old Ulysease Roca. Ulysease was found dead inside his home on the afternoon of April 19.  The backdrop to that story is that he was allegedly abused at the hands of police officers when he was detained for curfew breach.  The family is up in arms about the treatment they have been receiving from the Belize Police Department and the Medical examiner who conducted the post mortem.  After the post mortem, they were left with more questions than answers. Ulysease was a HIV/AIDS patient and a member of the LGBT community, speaking on his behalf and the family was Caleb Orozco, the Executive Director for UNIBAM.

Caleb Orosco, Executive Director, UNIBAM: “For the system this is just the one hundred and one death of the year but for these people who have a long history of difficulty this is their blood dying and they’re not asking fro you for police officers investigating this case to take five days of their time to show that they care they’re asking for a minute of care and explain what’s happening. My problem is there is a callousness that is occurring and it requires a bit of adjustment. First of all they were under the impression that there would be a post mortem, that the examiner would look at the body and properly address the factors. Ulysease had an abscess, he had a swollen neck prior to his death and the brother who observed the body was expecting his questions to be answered. The examiner plainly stated ‘I’m the expert. You need to listen to what I have to say.’ That’s not the way you deal with somebody who is grieving in front of you. It might be the hundred and fiftieth body you’re looking at but that one person is expecting some care to answer. When you have to go to a police investigator granted the police investigator has a lot of work and you are in no emotional state to say ‘Hey you missed out a particular sentence.’ and they’re not listening to you because the police investigator is in a rush to get the statement that is adding insult to injury.”

According to Orosco, a proper autopsy was not conducted. He is now questioning if this could be due to stigma or discrimination on the practitioner’s behalf?

Caleb Orosco, Executive Director, UNIBAM: For me the ethical thing the examiner should have done was answer the brother’s question and not act like he was entitled to shut up. The examiner should have demonstrated at least for a minute and explained the dynamics behind why he perceived doing an autopsy on an HIV positive person was dangerous but the examiner did not do any of that from an ethical perspective. From a more formal perspective the examiner had no excuse to not do an autopsy, universal precautions would have reduced any concerns to whatever infection concern he had to a minimum in fact in this time universal precaution is for everything now. So he doesn’t have an excuse unless his main reason for his negligence to not deal with that body was his own internal stigma and fear he carried and if he is informed by fear and not by medical information shame on him for even calling himself a doctor.”

The family is seeking closure and the only way that can occur is if they uncover the truth but that truth may never come. According to Orozco, they are exploring their legal options.

Caleb Orosco, Executive Director, UNIBAM:“Ulysease had a broken wisdom tooth. He had an abscess in his mouth, his jaw was swollen, that is the sign of an infection. To just say that he died from multiple organ failure due to complications from HIV without taking the blood of Ulysease and checking to see if there was presence of bacteria is to suggest that that review is incomplete. The examiner has to explain what are the connecting factors, why did he decide that there was multiple organ failure due to HIV? Did he, in my mind, factor in the presence of additional infection which may have aggravated what happened? If he didn’t he needs to truthful answer. He owes the family an answer. If Ulysease was found to be hit again by another officer to aggravated this abscess and it is found that this abscess may have triggered septic shock which led to multiple organ failure or which helped to collapse his already deficient immunity there’s a legal problem, so I get that. So I understand ComPol’s concern around that and for me it is really important for at least the family to get the truth.”

Several LGBT communities in collaboration with the Mental Health Association (MHA) issued a press release stating that now more than ever, with the heightened response required from the Belize Police Department, the internal policies, intellectual training and rewards system needs to be improved to facilitate the safe detention and interrogation of detainees regardless of age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental diversity or any other status where discrimination undermines human dignity.