Hindu family cremates Muslim-woman, AIIMS punishes staff for swapping bodies
The country's premier medical institute, AIIMS, has been receiving criticism for mixing up two bodies — sending the body of a Muslim woman to a Hindu family and vice versa. As this negligence sparked an uproar, AIIMS sacked one staff member at the mortuary and suspended another after setting up a committee to probe the matter. The bereaved families demanded police action.
The ordeal of Anjum's family began after she fell ill. As her condition didn't improve, her brother brought her from Bareilly to AIIMS, Delhi, thinking she would get quality treatment. By Sunday, AIIMS informed that Anjum, a mother of three, was coronavirus positive. A day later, she died. The jolted family wanted to see her one last time but hospital authorities denied their request.
With the hope of seeing his sister, Anjum's brother slipped Rs. 500 to one of the workers at the burial ground. He told The Print that he also wore a PPE kit to minimize transmission risk. "I wanted to take photographs and videos of the burial ceremony. As he (the workman) uncovered her face, I realized it was not even my sister," he narrated.
Apparently, the body Anjum's brother was looking at was Kusumlata's, a resident of Kailash Nagar, Ghaziabad, who also died of COVID-19. 52-year-old Kusumlata died on Sunday evening. The following day, her family cremated her at Punjabi Bagh crematorium, following Hindu rituals. Her family was unaware that they performed the last rites of a Muslim woman until they got a call from AIIMS on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, AIIMS informed Kusumlata's family that her body was still with them. Consequently, the family cremated her "again." Meanwhile, Anjum's family never got a chance to perform her last rites. In fact, the driver of the ambulance promised to bring her body to the burial ground. But after a long wait of nearly 12 hours, the family understood they had been wronged.
On Wednesday, AIIMS set up a committee for investigation. An official in the know told HT that various lapses in protocol led to the unfortunate incident. "All the COVID-19 bodies released by the hospital have the name tags on the body bags. We also ask family members to identify the body. PPE kits are provided for the purpose," the person said.
Further, the official said neither the staff nor the family checked the name tags in this particular incident. "The body had already been cremated. We offered the ashes to the family for burial, but they refused," the person said. On the incident, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southwest) said, "The family lodged a complaint. However, the issue was resolved and no FIR has been registered."