A callous mix-up with unfortunate consequences

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 3 - He died once but was cremated twice. This is what happened in Ernakulam due to the callousness of a private hospital that got the identities of two bodies kept in the mortuary mixed up.

A retired army officer and a close relative of a senior judge of the Kerala High Court, both in their 80s, died in Ernakulam and their bodies were kept by relatives in the mortuary of a private hospital before the final rites. Both the deceased were Hindus.

The army officer died Thursday morning and his relatives decided to keep the body in the mortuary till the afternoon and cremate it in the evening. Around afternoon, the body of the judge's relative was brought to the mortuary by other family members who said they would take possession of the body the following day as the funeral was to be held at Vaikom, about 20 km from Ernakulam.

Relatives of the army officer went to the hospital in the afternoon to claim his body for the final rites.

Speaking to IANS, a close relative of the army officer said they went to the hospital and handed over the clothes to be put on the body and asked the hospital authorities to ensure that the body is cleaned and the face given a shave.

"They soon came and asked us to take the body. Those who went to bring the body initially expressed doubts because my uncle was a person who sported a moustache while this body had no moustache. Moreover with the headgear only a portion of the face was visible. When some people asked why his face looks different, those in the hospital said that in some cases changes can happen to the body because of the medical treatment (embalming) and also due to the reaction of medicines. Since we had asked for a shave, we thought they had shaved off his moustache too," said the relative who did not wish to be identified.

By late evening Thursday, the relatives of the army official had got the body cremated afer doing all the rites.

The following morning, they got a shock.

"We got a call next morning (Friday) from the police. The judge's relatives were shocked to see that when they came to collect their close relative's body, they found it to be of someone else. A few of us reached the mortuary and to our shock we saw the body of our uncle with his moustache intact lying there," said the army official's relative.

The two families discussed the matter and finally reached a consensus. The relatives of the army official decided to hand over the remains of the judge's relative to them.

"We took our uncle's body from the mortuary and brought it here (Thiruvananthapuram) and cremated it with all religious rites in the evening. It was certainly an ordeal for all of us. The private hospital had only two compartments in the mortuary. If they had shown a little care, this unfortunate and costly mix-up would not have occurred," said the army official's relative.

And if one of the dead had happened to belong to another religion, one wonders what would have happened then. (IANS)