The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Post-mortem law ahead

If a fresh government policy — still in the nascent stage — comes through, post-mortem will become mandatory for any death caused by an unknown disease. The health department has been prompted to formulate the policy in the wake of several deaths caused by unknown diseases in recent times and the panic that these have sparked among doctors, not knowing how to deal with the situation.

“Several incidents in recent times have led us to initiate the move. An Act, like the one in Delhi and Chandigarh, is essential. We want doctors and the health administration to have the right to conduct post-mortem of any death caused by an unknown disease,’’ said special secretary in the health department Soumen Bandopadhyay.

A meeting was organised recently by the medical education cell of Calcutta Medical College, chaired by director of medical education C.R. Maity and attended by eminent doctors, to assess the condition of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the state. Experts opined that extensive research was essential to tackle any fatal viral diseases.

“Research is necessary to assess the character of a virus so that doctors can be prepared to tackle the disease without wasting time. It is essential to conduct a post-mortem if a person dies from an unknown disease to detect the strength and the damaging capacity of the virus,’’ said Dipesh Mondal, working chairman of the medical education cell.

Doctors attending the meet said they were still in the dark about the deaths in Siliguri, Burdwan, West Midnapore and North 24-Parganas. The nature of the virus remained unknown for lack of post-mortem.

Director of health services, Prabhakar Chatterjee said: “Apart from the legal provision, public awareness is also essential, as most people hesitate to allow doctors to conduct a post-mortem. We have to convince patients that there is no harm in conducting a post-mortem. Rather, it will help prevent another person from dying of the same disease.’’

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