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Nishtar Hospital denies responsibility for decaying bodies

Who is responsible for leaving the bodies to decompose in the open air on the rooftop of the Nishtar hospital?

By Web Desk
October 15, 2022

The nation is in a state of shock after videos flooded social media showing human bodies decomposing on the rooftop of the Nishtar Hospital in Multan. However, the medical facility refused to take responsibility and shifted the blame to the police. 

Taking notice of the unidentified bodies left to decay on the rooftop of the hospital, the Punjab government and the Nishtar Medical University's vice-chancellor formed separate committees.

The bodies are piled up at the morgue of the hospital and its rooftop mainly because of police and the rescue  departments, Nishtar Medical University's (NMU) Head of Anatomy Department Dr Mariam Ashraf said, while speaking in the Geo News programme 'Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath' on Friday. 

She said police and rescue officials [usually] hand over the bodies to the hospital for safekeeping. And, the hospital can not decline  as it is bound by duty to take them, she said. 

"The police and rescue officials do not take them back on time. We have written documents in which we have asked them to take the bodies. Since there is a lag, such things happen," the official said.

The hospital official said the bodies that the medical facility receives from police are usually decayed and they cannot be kept in the mortuary.

"As a result of their condition, maggots start eating them — and they can travel from one body to another. This is why, the bodies that are decaying are kept on the roof, where there are three rooms."

When asked about Edhi Foundation's role, she praised the non-governmental organisation, but also blamed them for not taking back the bodies.

"Edhi Foundation has not been picking up bodies from our hospital since they do not have burial space in their graveyard," she said.

"The only reason for the bodies being kept on the roof is that their influx is huge and they aren't returning back to the police stations in the numbers that they should," she said.

'Only a few bodies'

Rubbishing claims that there were 200 or some bodies on the rooftop, the hospital official said that the medical facility's administration has counted the exact number of bodies and shared the details with all the concerned authorities.

"Let me make it clear, only a few bodies were kept above. Putrified bodies are kept in the room."

Ashraf said that the bodies, which are given to the hospital by the police, are kept in the morgue for a month and in case no one shows up to claim the bodies, it sends them back to the police for burial.

"Usually, the abandoned bodies that we receive are already decayed to an increased extent. We follow all our SOPs, we do not refuse to take decayed bodies as well."

In case we need body parts from the body, then we treat them accordingly.

Nonfunctional morgues

In reply to a question about the nonfunctional morgues, she said the hospital administration recently held a meeting with the Secretary of Health at Punjab Secondary Healthcare and Medical Education Department.

In the meeting, a new mortuary was sanctioned for the hospital along with the funding for the civil works for the dedicated structures to be built for keeping the bodies.

"Our institute absorbs the bulk of the load of the province in terms of receiving such bodies."

The anchorperson asked that since the influx of bodies is too high and the hospital’s morgue runs out of capacity, so with the construction of the new morgue, would bodies not be thrown out on the rooftops to rot under the sky. In response, she said: "Yes, you're right."

She said the hospital won’t keep the highly decayed bodies in the regular mortuary and will upgrade the special infrastructure where these human remains would be kept.

Which reason?

The journalist then pressed the hospital official that she had given several reasons — blaming the rescue officials, police, keeping bodies for medical students, and the hospital not having enough capacity — for the incident, then which one would she stick to.

The hospital official did not offer a clear answer but again blamed police and rescue officials.

When Khanzada asked her to share the number with the public, she diplomatically dodged his curveball, saying: "I am not at liberty to disclose that number right now. I will let you know myself when possible."

Ashraf also defended the claims of several bodies being on the roof and said that not all of them were whole as autopsied bodies were also among them.

She explained that as the autopsied bodies are not whole and their organs and limbs are sometimes not attached to the body so they look like a pile of human body parts.

"Those medically mutilated bodies were giving the impression there was a lot of them there."

Police, Edhi reject allegations

Punjab Police Spokesperson DIG Muhammad Waqas Nazir admitted that these were the abandoned bodies handed over to the hospital by the police under the inquest, which is the requirement of the law.

“Teaching hospitals use the bodies for different purposes,” he told Khanzada.

In a letter to the secretary of specialised healthcare South Punjab, the hospital admitted that bodies were stored on the rooftop of the facility for decomposing and after completion of the process, their bones were to use for education purposes, he said while rejecting the allegations of the hospital.

However, due to the negligence of the hospital’s staff, the bodies were kept in the open air on the rooftop, Nazir added.

Speaking with Khanzada about the incident, Edhi Foundation's Faisal Edhi said "the Nishtar Hospital keeps corpses to teach students".

He added that it was the police, not Nishtar Hospital, that handed over bodies to his organisation.

"The police advise whether the corpse should be preserved or buried temporarily. We make a photograph of the abandoned dead body [for the record]," Edhi revealed.

He said that the bodies are given after identification and seeking permission from the police.

"We did not refuse Nishtar Hospital to bury the dead bodies; in fact, we contacted them today for the burial," Edhi claimed.

He further shared that the organisation has buried 155 dead bodies in the past 11 months.

Medical expert's opinion

Expressing her grief, Dr Seemin Jamali, former executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, said she had never seen any incident where abandoned bodies were kept on the rooftop to be parched for teaching students.

“Abandoned bodies are handed over to either Edhi or Chipa after postmortem,” she told Khanzada.

The former JPMC official said that welfare organisations buried those bodies after the hospitals hand them over.

She also revealed that the medical students were taught by using fresh corps as dead bodies stink.

'Whistleblower's tip'

Adviser to Chief Minister Punjab Tariq Zaman Gujjar said a whistleblower tipped him about the rotting bodies on the roof of the mortuary at Nishtar Hospital.

“I was on a visit in Nishtar Hospital when a man approached me and said if you want to do a good deed then go the morgue and check it out,” Gujjar said.

He said when he reached there the staff wasn’t ready to open the doors of the mortuary. “To this, I said if you don’t open it right now, I am going to file an FIR against you,” Gujjar added.

He said when the morgue was finally opened and they stepped in only to find at least 200 bodies lying around. “All the decomposing bodies [of both men and women] were bare. Even women’s bodies weren’t covered."

Gujjar said he asked them (doctors) to explain what was going on they said these were used by the medical students for educational purposes.

“Do you sell these bodies? I asked the mortuary authorities.”

Gujjar said he asked doctors to explain the incident and in response, they said it was not what it looked like as these were used by the medical students for educational purposes.

“Two of the bodies on the roof were rather in the early stages of decomposition. Maggots were all over them,” Gujjar said.

He said he had never seen anything like that in his 50 years of life.

“Vultures and worms were scavenging on the corpses on the roof. Our tally showed there were at least 35 bodies on the rooftop of the mortuary.”

“The bodies after being used for medical education purposes should have been given a proper burial after Namaz-e-Janaza, but they were thrown on the roof,” Gujjar said.

-- Thumbnail: A blurred image of two bodies rotting on the roof of Nishtar Hospital in Multan, on October 14, 2022. — Twitter