COVID victim cremated by another's family as 2 bodies swapped at AIIMS; action taken against staff

A doctor at the AIIMS said there has been a lapse on the part of the staff as they did not carry out the proper process of establishing the identity before handing over the bodies to the families.

Published: 08th July 2020 09:42 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th July 2020 11:54 AM   |  A+A-

A notice board restricts bodies for cremation to that of COVID-19 victims at the Punjabi Bagh crematorium during the ongoing nationwide lockdown in New Delhi

For representational purpose. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: In a case of sheer negligence, the bodies of two Covid-19 victims were swapped at the time of handing over to the families at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

A Muslim family, which was handed over the body of Hindu woman, discovered the goof-up at the time of burial. But, by the time the Hindu family was contacted, they had already cremated the wrong person.

Shareeb Khan’s 35-year-old sister was admitted at AIIMS Trauma Centre with Covid-19 on July 4. According to Shareeb, the next day, he got a call from the hospital and was told that three persons needed to donate blood.

“We couldn’t understand why we were asked to donate blood, but in these circumstances, didn’t question and went ahead. After some hours, the hospital called up again and said my sister’s health was deteriorating.”

On July 6, Shareeb again got a call around 11.30 pm informing that his sister’s condition has worsened and at 2 am, the family was told that she had passed away.

“The next morning, I and three more relatives reached the hospital to receive the body. The AIIMS administration gave me four PPE kits and told me to wait for the body at the ITO burial ground. I requested the officials to show my sister’s face once, but they refused citing safety concerns.” Shareeb claimed that one staff agreed to show the face the deceased if paid Rs 500.

“I agreed, but the staff said it will be done in the burial ground. When the body reached the burial ground and we saw the face, it was not my sister.

We were shocked. Initially, the staff argued saying I was not able to identify my sister but they finally accepted the mistake and went back to AIIMS to bring my sister’s body.” Shareeb said when the health did not return with his sister’s body for 4 hours, the family sensed something was wrong.

“We rushed back to AIIMS Trauma Centre, where we were told that my sister’s body was exchanged with that of a Hindu women and her family had apparently already cremated my sister’s body without realising that there had been an error.”

Shareeb said he tried to contact the Hindu family on the phone but they refused to speak to him. Not getting more cooperation from the hospital staff, Shareeb alleged that he went to the Safdarjung police station, but the police refused to register an FIR.

“Instead, the DCP asked me to mutually settle the matter. I am shattered…,” he said in a choked voice.

Staff sacked over goof-up, no FIR lodged yet

Already shattered by his sister’s death, Shareeb and her family, including three children, are devastated that they could not even give her a dignified burial.

The administration said they had immediately sacked a project employee who was not a permanent worker and a lab technician had also been suspended.

“Dr TS Roy, head of the Anatomy department, has formed a committee to look into the matter and submit a report,” said a source from the institute.

The police, however, denied receiving any complaint in this regard.

“The police cannot file an FIR until a family member files a complaint. Also, Covid-19 deaths are handled by civic authorities. We will file FIR and take action once we receive a complaint,” said a senior police official.

This newspaper tried to contact the family of the Hindu woman several times on the phone, but were unreachable. (With inputs from Gayathri Mani)

Project employee sacked, lab technician suspended

The AIIMS administration said it had immediately sacked a project employee who was not a permanent worker and a lab technician had also been suspended. A panel was formed to look into the matter and submit a report, said a source


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