COVID death is a non-medico-legal case, clarifies ICMR
Delhi - In a 32-page document "Standard Guidelines for Medico-Legal autopsy", the ICMR on May 10 clarified, "The deaths in hospital and under medical care due to COVID-19 is a Non-MLC case and doesn't require postmortem examination and the required certification of death is being done by treating doctors.
The apex medical research body of the country said "some of the cases of suspected COVID-19 death which are brought dead to the hospital are labeled by emergency doctors as MLC and body is sent to the mortuary and Police are informed which may need postmortem examination. Some of the cases are suicide, homicide, or accident and maybe COVID-19 positive or suspected case of COVID-19.
In such cases after the inquest procedure, if any crime is not suspected, police have the authority (as per section 174 CrPC) to waive off conduction of medico-legal autopsy, even though labeled as a medico-legal case."
The ICMR, however, said "This provision needs to be used prudently based on Police officer's investigation findings and Forensic Doctor's advice.
Asymptomatic infected persons, patients in the incubation period, unidentified dead bodies and cases with the negative result may not meet the diagnostic criteria for suspected cases, but should be treated as suspected COVID-19 death cases as a false-negative result is not uncommon."
According to ICMR, in the case of a large number of deaths, both incineration and burial are recommended methods for safe disposal of the bodies.
However, the Government's decision of incineration or burial may be taken in the best interest of public health at large.
It said religious rituals that requires touching the bodies should be avoided like bathing, kissing and hugging etc. of the bodies.
The document added that "the body must be cremated in an electric crematorium, wherever possible so that the movement and handling of the body is minimized.
The ash does not pose any risk and can be collected to perform the last rites. In case of burial, the upper surface should be cemented and earmarked."
It said that all the personnel associated with the care of the dead, from doctors to mortuary staff, to hearse van drivers and crematorium/burial ground staff should follow the precautions so that everyone can do their duty in good health.