No autopsies to be done after 8 pm

Oct 12, 2012, 07:10 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Owing to shortage of forensic surgeons at post-mortem centres, the police commissioner has issued a circular stating that no autopsies would be conducted between 8 pm and 8 am

Owing to dearth of forensic surgeons at the post-mortem centres of Rajawadi, Bhagwati, Cooper and JJ Hospital respectively, the city police have issued a circular on September 28 stating that no autopsies would be conducted here between 8 pm and 8 am.

Representation pic

“Out of the 16 forensic surgeons who were deployed at these four centres, six have been either promoted, or transferred out of Mumbai. Thus, it becomes humanly impossible for the remaining 10 surgeons to keep the centres open 24 hours a day,” explained Police Surgeon SM Patil, who also heads these units.

The Rajawadi post-mortem centre, on an average, receives around 10 to 15 bodies every day. This is because it is the only autopsy centre in the eastern suburbs and caters to 24 police stations, including Kurla and Vashi railway police stations. Hence, the workload at Rajawadi post-mortem centre is much higher than that at JJ Hospital, which caters to only eight police stations, including CST railway police. Similarly, Cooper hospital’s facility is being used by 16 police stations, while Bhagwati hospital caters to eight police stations.

“It is humanly impossible to work round the clock, and that too in shoddy working conditions. Besides, there is no basic facility available at autopsy centres, and most of the time is wasted in completing paper work and attending court hearings,” said a forensic surgeon.

According to surgeons, the irony is that MBBS graduates prefer post-mortem centres as the last option for placements.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director (Health Services) Dr Sanjeev Kamble confirmed to MiD DAY that there is a shortage of staff at autopsy centres and that his department is screening some MBBS graduates for deputation. “I am hopeful that I will be able to get at least two doctors within a week,” Kamble said.

On the contrary
However the police notification, which has already been put to practice from October 1, is in contradiction with the letter that was issued by the Director of Health Services in 2005. The letter stated that postmortem centers fall under emergency services and that autopsies should be conducted 24x7. Besides, the letter, which succeeded in abolishing the Coroner System, also warned that any doctor failing to do so would attract strict action.

When asked if any action would be taken against doctors for not conducting the autopsy between 8 pm to 8 am, another senior officer attached to a postmortem centre said, “No centre does autopsies in the evening, then why is the rule applicable only to us? The directive from health services is applicable to all postmortem centres,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health Suresh Shetty assured that he’d look into the matter. “We have already appointed a few doctors on deputation basis to run the police hospitals and dispensaries. However, there are a good number of positions that are still lying vacant and need to be filled immediately,” he said. Shetty added, “The issue should be dealt by the home department. I’ll meet the home minister and discuss it with him.”

Coroner system
The Coroners were public servants with Quasi Judicial Power — powers resembling those of a court of law or judge and with the ability to remedy a situation or impose legal penalties — to enquire death caused by accident, homicide, suicide, or by an unknown cause, under Section 174 of CPC.

Every such inquiry was deemed as judicial proceeds within the meaning of Section 193 of the IPC (45 of 1860). Earlier, Mumbai had Coroner Courts at Rajawadi, Cooper and JJ Hospital respectively. However the said system was abolished in the year 1999, and subsequently the postmortem centers came up. The Coroner power of certifying the cause of death was then given to the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). However, none of the ACPs have used this power till date.

Did you know?
The city has nine post-mortem centres, out of which four centres (Rajawadi, Cooper, Bhagwati and JJ Hospital) come under the home department, while three centres (Sion, KEM and Nair hospital) come under the BMC. The remaining two (St George and GT hospital post-mortem centre) come under the Medical Education Department.  

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