After being prodded by the Karnataka High Court, the State government on Thursday submitted a revised guidelines for dead body management, allowing family members of the deceased person who were infected with COVID-19, to view the dead body at the time of removal from isolation rooms and in the mortuary.
The court had asked the state government to relook at the guidelines with an emphasis on 'dignity of the dead'. It had said "What is important is that dead bodies are given dignified cremation or burial, depending upon the cultural and religious traditions of a particular dead person."
The revised protocol says that "Hasty disposal of the dead body of Covid-19 person should be strictly avoided. The safety and well being of everyone who attends to the dead body should be the first priority."
The family members can view the body without touching it and adhering to all other standard precautions. At no point of time, the family members can touch or kiss the body. At the crematorium/burial grounds, rituals such as reading from scripts, sprinkling of holy water and any other ritual which does not require touching of the body shall be allowed. Viewing of the dead body by unzipping at the face end of the bag shall be allowed.
As per the earlier protocol, BBMP officials are to transfer the dead body to the crematorium or burial ground and no person was allowed inside the hospitals. To which the bench had said "If in case of a particular religious practice in a community does not allow a woman in the house to visit burial or crematorium ground, it may not be possible for a woman in the house to see the face of the dead person."
In its written submissions the state government also informed the court that there is no definite conclusion arrived at by experts that the dead body of a COVID-19 person would not cause its spread. There is also no conclusive proof of evidence available from the experts with regard to the virus in the dead body, if any, would die on the death of such COVID-19 infected person. It was also said that while issuing the revised circular in respect of the procedure for disposal of the dead bodies of COVID-19 persons, the procedures adopted by other countries are also taken note of by the State.
In regards to the issue of death certificate of a Covid-19 patient, the counsel for BBMP clarified that "On the death of a person either on account of COVID-19 or otherwise, cause of death as the case may be, would be specified in the certificate of death to be submitted by the next kith and kin to the cemetery/burial ground/cremation as the case may be and they in turn would furnish the receipt while submitting the application for issuance of "Death Certificate" under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, based upon which the certificate of death would be issued by the Municipal Authority without specifying therein, the cause of death."
Appointment of Expert Committee as per Supreme Court directions
The State government informed the court that "Medical Experts Committee has been constituted in accordance with the direction of Apex Court at the State level as well as BBMP/district levels."
However the court pulled up the state by saying "The State, in order to overcome the probable proceedings which we would have been initiated, have now come up with the aforesaid order, which can be said to be in partial compliance of the direction issued by the Apex Court."
It added that "State Level Committee which is now said to have been constituted after a lapse of 1½ months after the direction came to be issued by the Apex Court, does not indicate that at the State level experts from other fields have been inducted to the said Committee. In fact, Committee constituted at the BBMP level as well as District level also does not indicate the name of representative of NGO or eminent personality in the district, whose presence would have made value addition to the said Committee and we say so for the reason that, issues relating to the non availability of hospitals, beds in the hospitals, transportation of the persons tested positive for COVID-19 from their place of residence to the hospital, hygiene at the hospital, providing food to the COVID-19 patients at the hospitals, refusal of admission by private hospitals, are all issues which requires to be ascertained by experts in those fields and mere constitution of the doctors alone in the Committee would not suffice and it would not yield the requisite results or assuage the problems faced by the needy."
Asking the state government to wake up from its 'slumber' the bench said "The order which has now been passed by the State, would only indicate that the State is attempting to 'shed crocodile tears'. We do hope that State will wake up from its slumber and take immediate remedial and corrective steps to comply with the order passed by the Apex Court by implementing it in its letter and spirit, which would not only curtail the spread of COVID-19 but would also address all other issues arising out of said pandemic which is prevalent in the State and spreading with fast pace."
The court will now further consider the batch of petitions dealing with medical facilities for Covid-19 patients in the state on August 4.