An order by the Wardha Superintendent of Police to prevent unnecessary post-mortems may act as a boon for both overburdened doctors and families of deceased.
Cases where cause of death in medico-legal cases is clearly given by doctors under form 4 and 4A are being exempted from an autopsy, said the latest order issued by SP Ankit Goyal. The order, under provisions of 174 CrPC, prevents autopsy when a patient dies in hospital after prolonged hospitalisation and there is no doubt over cause of death.
“If the doctor can give a cause of death as per Registration of Births and Deaths Act and the family is on board, we have told our police stations to refrain from ordering a post-mortem. Until now, post-mortems were routinely done to play safe in case a medico-legal situation arises,” said Goyal.
The new order has been implemented in all 19 police stations in Wardha district. According to Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), there is a 27 per cent reduction in post-mortems since March when the new order was implemented.
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“Unnecessary post-mortems don’t just waste the time of police and doctors. but also cause trauma to the relatives of the deceased,” said Dr Indrajit Khandekar, assistant professor at MGIMS forensic department.
In a report to the chief minister, Khandekar had mentioned that the lakhs of unnecessary post-mortems carried out on request of police had turned mortuaries into “production-line abattoirs”. Now, apart from suspicious deaths. only women’s deaths, normal or suspicious, within seven years of marriage, will have mandatory post-mortems to rule out possible foul play over dowry.
In Mumbai, between 80 to 100 autopsies are conducted on a daily basis. The reduction in autopsies will also reduce burden on mortuary workers who currently work on 24 hour shifts in state-run autopsy centers.
Forensic experts, however, claimed that implementing Wardha-like reform is difficult for the city. “In road accident cases, where we know there is no foul play, insurance company may ask for autopsy report for paying claim,” said Dr Harish Pathak, head of forensic department at KEM Hospital.
KEM conducts 2,000 post-mortems each year, of which Pathak claimed 40 per cent cases are “avoidable”. At Nair Hospital, head of forensic Dr Sailesh Mohite however said there is no harm in conducting an autopsy to ensure there is no foul play.