The Ministry of Health has confirmed to lawyers representing the wife of Sea Lots resident, Cedric ‘Burkie’ Burke, that they will preserve his body until his family confirms the cause of death via independent medical advice.
The family made a formal request for Burke’s medical records in a letter sent to the Ministry by attorney-at-law Chelsea John on Saturday.
In response, the Ministry of Health, through its acting Legal Adviser, Mala Kowlessar-Tagallie, asked for documentation “confirming that your Client is the lawful next of kin of the Deceased.”
It said that once that is produced, the Ministry had no objection to the disclosure of a copy of the medical records from Burke’s admission into hospital on September 9 to his death on September 11.
The letter by the Ministry of Health stated, “In this regard, please note that the MoH has no objection to the preservation of the said medical records until disclosure and in any event all medical records are, as a matter of medical records policy and practice, duly secured and preserved.”
The Ministry added that it also has no objection to “the preservation of the body of the Deceased pending you Client’s solicitation of expert medical advice/confirmation as to the medical condition of her husband and his cause of death.”
The letter Attorney John had sent to the Ministry, stated that she, together with Richard Clarke-Wills, was acting on behalf of Felicia Samuel, the wife of Burke.
It said that she received a call at 4.30 pm Friday informing her that Burke had been admitted to the Mount Hope hospital on Wednesday, September 9 and then transferred to the Arima hospital the next day.
It said that he began to experience breathing problems and was transferred to the Couva Hospital. The letter said that Samuel then inquired if Burke was dead and was given confirmation.
“Our client was in intermittent communication with her husband on Wednesday and Thursday and at no point did he indicate that he was in any critical condition,” the letter stated.
It added that around 6.45 am Friday, Burke told attorney Clarke-Willis that although he was advised that he had contracted COVID-19, no test result was physically provided to him.
Clarke-Willis said that Burke was indignant and said that he was “administered something or that something was going to be administered to him and that he was uneasy about it.”
“I am further instructed that Mr Burke had a conversation with his business partner around 9 am wherein Mr Burke indicated to him that he felt numb as a result of something that was administered to him. The aforementioned raises suspicion as to the cause of death,” the letter said.
It added, “In the circumstances, our Client is not satisfied that the cause of death of her husband is in fact dues to Covid-19 and/or Covid-19 related complications.”
It was at that point in the letter that the attorneys then asked for the medical records and that the body be preserved “and no burial or cremation done to allow the family to have an independent autopsy conducted in the absence of confirmation that the Deceased in fact died from Covid-19 or complications related thereto.”
Burke was a well-known community leader in Sea Lots, who became the subject of controversy when he accompanied Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald to her swearing-in as Minister of Public Utilities at President’s House in May 2017.
Burke had been arrested and charged under anti-gang law in 2011.
McDonald was fired by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley two days after the event.