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Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health

Derek Achong

The son of a woman from Rio Claro, who died suddenly before testing negative for COVID-19, has sent a legal letter over a decision to detain his mother’s body for over two weeks in order to perform a second autopsy.

In a letter sent to Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram yesterday morning, lawyers representing Fazal Khan outlined their concerns over the handling of the body of his mother Rohanie Samdai Lal, who passed away on September 3.

According to the document, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Lal went to the Rio Claro Health Facility on September 1 and complained of feeling unwell.

She was administered a coronavirus test and was instructed to return home and self isolate for 14 days while waiting on the results.

Two days later, she collapsed at her home and was taken back to the facility, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

The District Medical Officer (DMO) ordered that her body be taken to the mortuary at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope for an autopsy, which would take place after her COVID-19 test results came back.

On Tuesday, Khan was informed that the test was negative, however, the autopsy was not done as a senior doctor had allegedly ordered a second test be performed on the body due to the lapse in time between the first and her death.

In the letter, Khan’s lawyer Jerry Boyer question why the process was not completed in over two weeks.

“The family is even more distressed as they are of Muslim faith and under Islamic rites the body of a Muslim should be buried as soon as possible from the time of death. This means that funeral planning and preparations should not be delayed,” Boyer said.

Boyer also referred to the ministry’s “Guidelines for Hospital Staff and Funeral Agencies”, which require all positive or suspected COVID-19 bodies to be stored separately.

The document, which also outlines the procedure for relatives to have a final viewing of their COVID-19 positive relatives’ bodies, requires that suspected deceased cases who return with negative tests to be transferred to another location for an autopsy.

Boyer also called upon the ministry to hold its hand on mandatory cremation of Lal’s body if her second test does return positive as he noted relatives of Sea Lots businessman Cedric “Burkie” Burke were allowed to contemplate a private autopsy after he passed away from complications related to the virus, last week.

Burke’s relatives eventually decided to forgo the autopsy after making use of the final viewing facility, earlier this week.

“In closing, we cannot express the current state of mental distress and anxiety our client and his family is undergoing as they cannot grieve in peace and bring closure to the passing of their loved one due to this continued detention of the body of their loved one,” Boyer said.

Khan is also being represented by Lemuel Murphy and Joseph Sookoo.

His lawyers had not received a response up to late yesterday.