A body mix-up in India amid the pandemic resulted in the swapping of the last rites of a Muslim woman with a Hindu ceremony.
A state hospital in the capital Delhi handed over the bodies to the wrong families. As a result, the Muslim woman was cremated, while the Hindu woman ended up at a burial site.
Speaking about the incident, Nasreen Khan said on Tuesday he received a phone call from the trauma center of the hospital informing him that his sister has died of COVID-19.
Indian hospital mixes up bodies of Muslim and Hindu women
The 35-year-old woman had been brought from Bareilly in the western state of Uttar Pradesh for her jaundice and COVID-19 treatment in Delhi only two days ago.
Khan and other family members, including the victim’s three children, were advised to go to the nearby cemetery for burial preparations, while the hospital was readying the body for the send-off.
“We were asked at the mortuary to prepare for burial. After waiting for almost two hours at the burial site, the ambulance arrived with the body. We insisted to see the face, but the staff asked for money,” said Khan.
When the family insisted again the hospital staff demanded 500 Indian rupees ($7) to show the face. Once paid, the family was shocked to see that the body in the bag was of a Hindu woman with a different name tag.
In a fit of shock, the hospital staff took the body back saying that they will bring the right body. But when they did not return for over three hours, Khan and others returned to the mortuary.
Families were unaware about the mix-up
“Despite our repeated demands, we were not informed of what was happening. Only late in the evening, a senior doctor confirmed that our [name hidden] had been cremated by the Hindu family,” she said.
On Wednesday, when the Hindu woman’s family learned about the blunder, they came to retrieve the right body.
“Even if her family offers ashes now, it is of no use. In our religion, we do not keep ashes. It hurts to know that my sister, who lost her husband only six months back, did not even get a proper burial as per our customs,” she added.
The hospital has set up an inquiry committee to look into the matter, while two staff have been suspended.
“We’ve suspended the two mortuary boys who goofed-up. The inquiry committee is further looking into the matter. It was a lapse, a human error,” Dr. Amit Lathwal, medical superintendent of the AIIMS Trauma Center, told Anadolu Agency.
Mixing up bodies: a common occurrence in Indian hospitals?
A municipal corporation hospital in Thane mixed up the bodies of two coronavirus victims, forcing one of the families to go through the cremation process twice in a week. Later, as they realised the goof-up, the municipality made the family sign a declaration stating the mistake was made by both the hospital and the family.
According to a report in The Indian Express, Santosh Sonawane cremated his father on Wednesday. Four days ago he had cremated the body of one Balchandra Gaikwad, whose family continued to wait for the body. The hospital told them the body had gone missing.
The Thane hospital realised the mistake days after the body of the 72-year-old Gaikwad was already cremated by Sonawane.
Days after he went through the cremation process for the first time, Sonawane received a call from the hospital saying his father was still alive. However, his joy was short-lived. He received another call soon after, saying his father had succumbed to coronavirus.
Islamophobia seeping into Indian healthcare system
A hospital in Ahmedabad set segregated wards for corona patients based on faith and religion in April. As per the reports, the Muslims and Hindu COVID-19 patients have been placed in separate rooms.
Hospital MS Dr Gunvant H Rathod says they have separated Hindu and Muslim patients according to the orders of the government. But Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister have denied any knowledge of it.
Dr Rathod said, “Generally, there are separate wards for male and female patients. But here, we have made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients.” On being asked the reason for such segregation, Dr Rathod said, “It is a decision of the government and you can ask them.”
Deputy CM Patel told. “I am not aware of such a decision (on wards, as per faith). Generally, there are separate wards for males and females. I will enquire about it.”
Ahmedabad Collector KK Nirala also denied the ‘wards as per faith’ system. He said, “There has been no such instruction from our side and we are not aware of any such government decision.”
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk