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Coronavirus: AG orders criminal prosecution after refusal to carry out post-mortem

Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides

The attorney-general has ordered the criminal prosecution of a state pathologist for refusing to carry out a post-mortem and not complying with the order of a coroner because of Covid.

It followed the refusal of a state pathologist, who was not named, to carry out a post-mortem on the body of a 62-year-old man who died from unknown causes on January 19.

The body has not yet been given to the family for burial because the deceased tested positive for Covid-19 after his death and pathologists refused to carry out a post-mortem.

As a result, no health professional at the hospital will sign the death certificate to release the body to the family.

The case went to court where a coroner ordered a post-mortem be carried out. That too was ignored by state pathologists who have been refusing to do their jobs since the pandemic broke out in March last year.

Since then, post-mortems have been few and far between, mostly concerning criminal cases.

In a statement on Thursday, the attorney-general said he has ordered police to open a criminal case in connection with the refusal and failure to comply with the order of a coroner.

The Legal Service said it had made spoken to health officials about the issue and the need for a post-mortem to be carried out immediately based on the guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the Royal College of Pathologists.

“The position of the attorney-general and deputy attorney-general is that respect for the dead and their relatives is a basic obligation and the lengthy and unjustified delay in burying a dead person is unacceptable, to put it mildly,” the statement said. “In addition, disobeying a court order constitutes a violation of a key aspect of the rule of law, which cannot be tolerated.”

WHO issued a guide with instructions regarding the safe management of a dead body in the context of Covid-19 in September. The guide includes safety procedures to be followed in case of a post-mortem on deceased coronavirus patients

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