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New post-mortem protocol welcome

Many other countries do not have the time restrictions that existed in India and post-mortems could be done at any time
Last Updated : 25 November 2021, 01:06 IST
Last Updated : 25 November 2021, 01:06 IST

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The recent changes in post-mortem protocols that allow for the procedure to be conducted after sunset are well-considered. The order has already come into effect, and the Union health ministry has said that it would reduce the burden imposed by the processes followed till now. It has also been said that relatives of the deceased would be spared anxiety and stress if post-mortems could be done at night. The ministry’s statement has said that the decision would also promote organ donation and transplant as organs can be harvested in the stipulated time window. The decision was taken on the basis of recommendations made by a technical committee appointed by the government after it had received many representations for liberalisation of the procedure. The requests had come from many quarters.

Many other countries do not have the time restrictions that existed in India and post-mortems could be done at any time. In India also, the time restriction was more by convention than by rule. It has been pointed out that the convention came to be established because the practice of autopsies started before electricity became commonly available. Some hospitals have recently conducted post-mortems using artificial light and some states like Maharashtra and Gujarat have approved the conduct of post-mortems at any time. The ministry has said that the notification has been issued because performing night-time post-mortems is now feasible with the rapid advancement and improvement in technology and the required lighting and infrastructure required for post-mortems is available. It has also been said that post-mortems should be taken up on priority in cases where organ donation is envisaged. This is because delays even by a few hours in conducting post-mortems can result in damage to organs, making them unfit for transplant.

Some conditions have been laid down. In the case of deaths where homicide, suicide or rape is suspected or if the body is decomposed or there is suspected foul play, post-mortems should only be done during daylight hours. Even in such cases, the procedure can be expedited and held after daylight hours if the law-and-order situation is fragile. Doctors have pointed out that the exception lacks clarity because they would be unable to take a call on the law-and-order situation when a body is presented for post-mortem. This is true, and so the government needs to clarify who should certify that the law-and-order situation is fragile. Deaths and post-mortems are sensitive matters and they should be handled carefully. The opening up of the procedure is, in any case, welcome.

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Published 24 November 2021, 18:56 IST

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