Mumbai: Dead man's autopsy conducted after nine hours

A police ferried the unidentified body, found at 8.30 am, twice between St George and JJ Hospital for the post-mortem as the doctors at each hospital referred them to the other; autopsy was finally conducted at 5.45 pm

Miscommunication between two post-mortem centres of the city resulted in a staggering 9-hour delay in conducting the post-mortem of a man whose body was washed ashore at Sassoon Dock early last morning.

Doctors at JJ Hospital refused to conduct the post mortem, saying that they needed a go-ahead from St George. File pic
Doctors at JJ Hospital refused to conduct the post mortem, saying that they needed a go-ahead from St George. File pic

The body, found by fishermen around 8.30 am on Wednesday (April 15) was ferried to-and-fro from the under-renovation St George Hospital Post-Mortem Centre to JJ Hospital twice, before the authorities could finally decide on who would conduct the autopsy and where the body would be stored after the examination.

Three constables and two inspectors from the Colaba police station eventually paid from their own pockets when doctors from St George Post Mortem Centre finally agreed to conduct the post-mortem around 5.30 pm.

The body, which had started to decompose and stink because it could not be kept in cold storage, eventually reached JJ Hospital at night, where it will be stored till someone comes forward to claim the body.

Fished out
The incident took place early in the morning when fishermen from Sassoon Dock called police control as soon as they noticed the body of a middle-aged man in the water.

The Colaba police station, which received the call around 8.30 am in the morning, reached the spot, conducted a panchnama, took the statements of the fishermen and took the unidentified man to St George Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

However, the five police personnel were unaware that the routine exercise would prove to be a tedious affair leading to them having to keep the decomposing body company for nine hours.

Nine-hour ordeal
Since St George Post-Mortem Centre has been under renovation for more than four days, doctors stationed there informed the police personnel that they wouldn’t be able to conduct the autopsy at the centre, and the body would have to be taken to JJ Hospital.

Allegedly, no written document was provided for the reference of doctors from JJ Hospital. “The doctors from St George said that all the police stations attached to St George are supposed to take the unidentified bodies to JJ Post Mortem Centre,” said a constable on the condition of anonymity. The police eventually reached JJ Post Mortem Centre at around 12.30 pm. By the time, the body had already started to stink and decompose.

However, the ordeal was not yet over. Doctors from JJ Hospital’s in-house forensic department as well as the post-mortem centre said that no such intimation had been received by them and they could not conduct a postmortem without the consent of the higher authorities or a written recommendation from the doctors at St George.

No orders
“The problem has been persisting since the past three days. There is no formal intimation, yet police personnel are asked to take bodies to JJ for post mortem. This is the third case and we just asked the personnel to bring formal letters.

We didn’t have any problem with conducting the post-mortem, but we can’t do it without a go-ahead from St George Hospital,” said a doctor from JJ Post-Mortem Centre, requesting anonymity. 

The police personnel then called all the concerned doctors and officials. After four-and-a-half hours, they were directed to take the body to St George again for the postmortem.

Shifted again
Nine hours after the body had been found, the body was shifted for the third time. The police personnel had to hire a private ambulance from the premises of JJ Hospital to move the body to St George Hospital for post-mortem around 5.45 pm. The doctors at St George told the police that they were ready to conduct a post-mortem but there would be no ambulance provided, and the body would have to be taken back to JJ Post-Mortem Centre for storage.

When mid-day spoke to one of the police inspectors at the spot, he said they were just following orders and trying to ensure that that the dead man received a final resting place. “We are paying for the ambulance ourselves. The body has to be moved and we will be taking it back to JJ for storage. Sorry, I can’t comment any further,” said the inspector.

Hospital speak
Dr Jagdish Bhavani, medical superintendent of St George Hospital, was unavailable for comment. A senior medical officer told mid-day: “We only told the police personnel that the storage facility was not available at the hospital since the past four days and they would have to take the patient to JJ Hospital. We have already sent a circular to JJ. But there was some miscommunication between them and they (police) took off.”

Police speak
Rameshwar Suple, senior inspector, Colaba police said that his officers had acted on the directions of the hospital. “I did receive a call about the body being taken to JJ Hospital since St George refused to conduct the post-mortem. Our officers acted on the doctors’ directions, how could there be a miscommunication?” asked Suple.

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