Management of the dead during coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak: Practices and perceptions of forensic practitioners from India

Med Sci Law. 2021 Jun 22;258024211025833. doi: 10.1177/00258024211025833. Online ahead of print.


The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has mandated a response from administrative agencies and the health sector globally, however, the number of cases and deaths continue to rise. While management of the living is paramount, the management of the dead is also important. Guidelines for managing the dead have been issued and implemented by various local administrations, in accordance with national and international guidelines. This questionnaire-based research aims to develop an understanding of the knowledge, perceptions and practices of forensic practitioners from India as regards the management of the dead during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. This Pan-India study included 278 forensic medicine experts (249 males and 29 females) working in various hospitals and medical institutions across the country. The questionnaire included various issues involving the management of dead bodies in cases involving coronavirus disease 2019, such as infection control practices, body screening, handling and autopsy, disposal practices, local administrative policies, and available infrastructure and resources. We found that guidelines are mostly being followed across India, barring disparity in issues relating to testing in the dead bodies, the role of local administration in the body disposal, and the use of personal protective equipment while handling bodies and during autopsies. Mortuaries now need to be upgraded, and general infrastructure requires improvement. Periodic training of all stakeholders and assessment of facilities are recommended.

Keywords: autopsy; coronavirus disease 2019; disinfection; forensic medicine; infection control; personal protective equipment; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2.