The Coronavirus death toll is increasing exponentially. While this pandemic grips the world, some countries have had their unfair share of the trauma and are now recovering from the after effects of it. India still has yet to reach its peak and the number of cases keep increasing on a daily spike. While dignity in death has always been synonymously agreed upon, in the times of today, it is debatable if this still stands.
A renowned Government hospital in Mumbai, had recently been in the news for a video that sent shock waves across the country and the world alike. The disturbing, shocking visuals show body bags besides patients suffering with the novel virus, lying on hospital beds. Doctors, medical personnel, psychologists and the lay man have questioned the ethics of this act and in their personal and professional opinions, also criticised this move, saying it is torturous to have patients who are recovering, being forced to lie besides those who were killed by the very same ‘killer’.
However, when questioned, the hospital authorities claimed that they were in a fix, and couldn’t possibly help resorting to this. The Dean of the hospital, Dr. Pramod Ingale, in a statement issued, said “The video seems to be from Sion Hospital. The challenge with us is that relatives are not ready to take the bodies. Usually relatives are behind us to handover the body. In COVID-19 cases, they are not coming forward to collect the body. By the time we disinfect and wrap the body of a COVID-19 patient the relatives disappear. We can’t dispose off the body on our own. We have to inform local police station and medical health officer about the death” as quoted by the India Today.
What is the global approach?
However, then what is to be done in this case; and moving to the big concern of the hour; is India equipped to deal with the rising Coronavirus death toll? To give a background to this sensitive issue, are examples of what other countries have had to resort to, in order to handle the numbers of the dead.
Undertakers are now acting as replacement families, as funerals have been banned in several European countries. Reports from across the world suggest that relatives pass on heirlooms and trinkets to bury alongside their dead. In Italy, which was the epicentre of the virus for a long time, funeral services were banned as an emergency measure. As the Coronavirus death toll kept increasing, caskets started piling up in scores and the sights left people across the globe grieving for the dead they didn’t even know.
New York City moved the unclaimed bodies to island Bronx, where they could be disposed off and in another move, the City set up chilled tents near hospitals, in order to house these mortal remains. In Iran, the burial pits were so massive, they could be seen from space. And in Ecuador, cemeteries were built in large numbers to accommodate these remains.
So, how is India preparing to tackle this problem, that seems to loom over us? Are we to continue letting the recovering happen besides body bags, or are we equipped to deal with the spiking numbers which we may have to witness?
Time will tell, if dignity in death is truly something of the past or still a norm we live by.