Surgical autopsies have been unpopular with the families of the dead for reasons both personal and religious.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Surgical autopsies have been unpopular with the families of the dead for reasons both personal and religious.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mumbai’s Nair Hospital may get Maharashtra’s first digital autopsy centre

The move is expected to reduce the time and manpower needed to conduct post-mortem procedures.
By Sadaguru Pandit | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON AUG 14, 2018 04:58 AM IST

Maharashtra may soon get its first digital autopsy unit, where forensic experts will use high-definition scans instead of cutting open bodies to find out the cause of death.

Proposed to be set up at Mumbai’s BYL Nair Hospital, the move is expected to reduce the time and manpower needed to conduct post-mortem procedures. Regular autopsies can take up to two hours, while a digital autopsy can be done in around 40 minutes.

 Apart from the time factor, surgical autopsies have been unpopular with the families of the dead, for reasons both personal and religious. Digital autopsies will also help in medico legal cases — where speedy procedures are required — and in cases where the cause of death is already known, such as accidents and mass casualties, experts said. If the project at Nair hospital proves efficient, the set-up may also be replicated at autopsy centres in other hospitals.

The project was first discussed in an August 9 meeting, chaired by Idzes Kundan, the additional municipal commissioner (western suburbs) and Raees Shaikh, municipal corporator, D ward (211). Dr Avinash Supe, director, medical education and major hospitals, and Sunil Dhamne, deputy municipal commissioner, public health were also at the meeting, along with forensic experts from the Sion and Cooper Hospitals.

Now, a committee led by Dr Supe, with Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean, BYL Nair Hospital, Dr Rajesh Dere, head and professor, forensic medicine, Sion Hospital, Dr Shailesh Mohite, head of forensic department, Nair Hospital and Dr R Sukhdeve, medical superintendent, RN Cooper Hospital will look at how effective digital autopsies can be and submit a report to the BMC.

“There is no doubt the project would save manual intervention required in unwarranted medico legal cases. Deaths from burns, accidents, mass casualties and clinical deaths, where the cause is known, can be analysed within half-an-hour,” said Dr Dere. 

“The administrative approval of the project has been pending, subjected to deciding on a space near the mortuary to set up the unit,” said corporator Shaikh. “Now that we have the space, we will start working on the project. As it is a non-invasive procedure, the digital autopsy will come as a relief for people uncomfortable with the traditional autopsy.” 

Dr Bharmal said the team of doctors will begin working on a proposal once administrative approvals come in. “As autopsy is a subject that the home department oversees, we will have to take the necessary permissions from them.” 

Activists, however, said that while they welcome the move, they were sceptical about whether the idea will materialise. “A similar plan was proposed at St George Hospital, and all paperwork to complete the project, with a timeline, was given. But the project is yet to move forward,” said Renu Kapoor, a chartered accountant, who is also a part of the Dignity in Death drive. Kapoor pointed out how many hospitals were still forcing class 4 employees to conduct autopsies, often without the necessary instruments or even gloves.   

In digital autopsy, experts use a high definition CT and or MRI investigations to determine the cause of death in addition to or in place of traditional autopsy. The technology eliminates the need for an invasive procedure, provides excellent 3D visualisation of the body and allows re-examination of digital images of the deceased long after death. 

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