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Post-mortem Examinations during COVID

Sandali Amaya

A current and important topic of discussion these days is COVID-19 or otherwise called, the Corona Virus. Many individuals in society have used various tactics and precautions to avoid this virus and protect their lives. However, the subject of post-mortem examinations remains a much fraught subject of discussion. The question lies in whether the virus can be contracted by an individual whilst conducting post-mortem examinations.

While on this subject, Palitha Bandara Subasinghe, Attorney-at-Law of the Kandy Hospital said, “18% of patients who have contracted this virus do not show symptoms. These patients can at times be suffering from other illnesses or face incidents even after contracting this virus. There is no realistic way in which each and every individual who enters a hospital premises can be tested. Similarly, it is also not practical for the medical staff in a hospital to always wear complete protective gear and uniforms. They also cannot keep one-meter distance when treating patients. Hence, medical staff are in great danger of contracting the virus from such individuals.”

If one such patient dies, the need for a post-mortem examination will arise. Which means, the body will be dissected and the possibility of the virus spreading increases, especially when the respiratory system is dissected. Further the possibility of dehumidifiers that are present in mortuaries removing these airborne contaminants from the deceased person’s respiratory system and releasing it into the air is high. The virus can spread through these methods. Additionally, new research has found that this virus is present in various organs and systems of the human body. The virus has been found in the brain, digestive tract, kidneys, and the urinary system. Hence, when these parts are dissected, the possibility is high for the virus to mix with air.

Similarly, once the infected body is taken to be embalmed, those who work at funeral parlours can also be susceptible to contamination.

It has also been reported that people who bury their infected dead in Indonesia are at a high risk of contracting this virus. This virus is novel and never seen in the world before. Scientists have yet to find out exactly how this virus operates. Hence it is not exactly clear how this virus enters the body. How long can this virus survive in water? Or be mixed in soil? How long will it be until the virus contaminates water sources? Thus, cremation is the best course of action to take in this instance.

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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