Pathologist: Settle open-air pyre issue, ease up the morgues

FILE PHOTO: Funeral pyres burn according to Hindu rites at the Caroni Cremation Site on May 26. - SUREASH CHOLAI
FILE PHOTO: Funeral pyres burn according to Hindu rites at the Caroni Cremation Site on May 26. - SUREASH CHOLAI

NOW that the Court of Appeal has ruled that the ban on open-air-pyre cremations of covid19 victims must return to the High Court for urgent hearing, pathologist Dr Rajendra Persad is asking for the issue to be taken one step further.

Persad is calling for an out-of-court settlement to lift the ban as covid19 figures rise astronomically, testing the capacity of mortuaries and funeral homes.

He said this measure would go a long way to relieving the pressures on families, funeral homes and public-health-system mortuaries that are reported to be overwhelmed by the numbers of bodies of covid19 fatalities.

He said Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh has the power to reverse the decision with the stroke of a pen and then inform the court of the decision

“I am suggesting that we remove the ban, as there is no scientific basis for it. That would go a long way to alleviating the pile-up in the nation’s mortuaries and funeral homes."

He said there would be immediate benefits, as the majority of cases from the South and Central belong to the Hindu religion and opt for open-air-pyre cremation.

As covid19 deaths rise above 2,000 and November has been recorded as the deadliest month thus far, Deyalsingh said contingency measures were being put in place to deal with morgues filling up. He denied, however, that they were overfull.

But president of the Association of Funeral Professionals of TT Keith Belgrove is reported by another media house as saying a storage facility for bodies of covid19 victims is to be constructed soon in Central Trinidad.

Persad asked why, if the system is not overwhelmed, building a storage facility was being considered.

He called on Deyalsingh to open up the morgues to media scrutiny.

Government has banned open-air cremations for public health reasons, although indoor cremation is allowed. Persad said this is wrong, as there is no scientific data suggesting it is bad for public health.

He also underscored that the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines has not imposed any prohibition on open-air cremations for covid19 victims.

Earlier this year Cindy Ramsaroop initiated legal action after her father, Silochan Ramsaroop, died of covid19 at the Couva Hospital on July 25. She was denied the right to cremate him, although he was a devout Hindu, because of Government’s ban on open-air-pyre cremation.

Cindy Ramsaroop challenged the ban and infringement of her constitutional rights. Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams and Justice of Appeal Malcolm Holdip ruled there was no legal basis for challenging the Government’s ban.

Last week, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision and ordered Quinlan-Williams to give it her urgent consideration.

Appeal Court judge Ronnie Boodoosingh, in delivering the judgement, noted that Ramsaroop had filed expert evidence from overseas-based TT epidemiologist Dr Farley Cleghorn, who said there was no medical or scientific justification for the blanket ban on open-air cremations.

Cleghorn’s report said the Government’s policy on using only closed indoor crematoria actually increased the risk of contracting the virus.


"Pathologist: Settle open-air pyre issue, ease up the morgues"

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