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Deaths certificates should clearly state Covid-19 as the cause: SC

The apex court directs that death certificates properly state Covid-19 as the cause of death of infected patients to ease the process of relief for families and dependents.

Sabrangindia 31 May 2021

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Supreme Court of India on May 24, 2021 asked the central government to form a uniform policy to record Covid-19 deaths and corresponding death certificates that may include Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines and sections of the Disaster Management Act.

Justices Ashok Bhushan and M. R. Shah heard separate pleas, including one filed by Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, requesting the Centre to grant an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 4 lakh each to families of Covid-casualties. During the proceeding, the Bench acknowledged the argument that relief guidelines required a death certificate proving a Covid-death. However, many certificates only mention lung problems of infection and do not mention Covid-19.

“There is no uniform policy for issuing the certificate or any official document regarding causes of death to the deceased families due to which there is a difficulty in availing various benefits,” said the Court order.

Accordingly, Justice Shah directed the government to clearly state Covid-19 as the cause of death so that families may avail relief. Not doing so would also be unfair towards families who lose their families to coronavirus but read something else on the death certificate.

Does recording Covid-deaths solve the problem?

While proper documentation and record of coronavirus casualties will help many families, recent reports suggest that accurate record for the death toll is more complicated. Many patients unable to get admission in hospitals have been surviving at homes.

Reports of families abandoning their kin for fear of contracting some infection from the corpse continue to pop up from across India. The rush of bodies flowing down Ganga River is one such example where authorities are unable to confirm or deny the ratio of Covid bodies.

Similarly, many NGOs across India have started collecting abandoned bodies from streets to conduct final rites but cannot follow Covid-procedure due to lack of any proof of such death. Such incidents also affect compensation for dependents like children who only lose one parent, often the breadwinner of the family.

As for rural areas, recent interventions by Team Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) indicated that villagers do not have adequate testing facilities nor basic medication to deal with fever or body pain.

What is the estimated death toll?

A New York Times report of May 25 estimated the number of Covid-deaths in India by May 24 could range anywhere from over 16 lakhs (1.6 million) to 42 lakhs (4.2 million) as opposed to the official count of 3,07,231 deaths.

Further, an Open Data Tracker suggests that over 512 people died due to oxygen shortage in hospitals between April and May 16. This aside from people who died waiting for beds and oxygen outside hospitals.

Following the hearing last week, the court scheduled the next hearing on June 11, allowing time for the central government to file an affidavit with relevant information for the demand for accountability on death certificates.

Related:

Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?
How did the Kumbh Mela attendance record drop to 21 Lakh from 49 Lakh?
Covid-19: Which Indian states tackled it effectively and how?
Upload information about children orphaned due to Covid: SC to Districts

Deaths certificates should clearly state Covid-19 as the cause: SC

The apex court directs that death certificates properly state Covid-19 as the cause of death of infected patients to ease the process of relief for families and dependents.

Image Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Supreme Court of India on May 24, 2021 asked the central government to form a uniform policy to record Covid-19 deaths and corresponding death certificates that may include Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines and sections of the Disaster Management Act.

Justices Ashok Bhushan and M. R. Shah heard separate pleas, including one filed by Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, requesting the Centre to grant an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 4 lakh each to families of Covid-casualties. During the proceeding, the Bench acknowledged the argument that relief guidelines required a death certificate proving a Covid-death. However, many certificates only mention lung problems of infection and do not mention Covid-19.

“There is no uniform policy for issuing the certificate or any official document regarding causes of death to the deceased families due to which there is a difficulty in availing various benefits,” said the Court order.

Accordingly, Justice Shah directed the government to clearly state Covid-19 as the cause of death so that families may avail relief. Not doing so would also be unfair towards families who lose their families to coronavirus but read something else on the death certificate.

Does recording Covid-deaths solve the problem?

While proper documentation and record of coronavirus casualties will help many families, recent reports suggest that accurate record for the death toll is more complicated. Many patients unable to get admission in hospitals have been surviving at homes.

Reports of families abandoning their kin for fear of contracting some infection from the corpse continue to pop up from across India. The rush of bodies flowing down Ganga River is one such example where authorities are unable to confirm or deny the ratio of Covid bodies.

Similarly, many NGOs across India have started collecting abandoned bodies from streets to conduct final rites but cannot follow Covid-procedure due to lack of any proof of such death. Such incidents also affect compensation for dependents like children who only lose one parent, often the breadwinner of the family.

As for rural areas, recent interventions by Team Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) indicated that villagers do not have adequate testing facilities nor basic medication to deal with fever or body pain.

What is the estimated death toll?

A New York Times report of May 25 estimated the number of Covid-deaths in India by May 24 could range anywhere from over 16 lakhs (1.6 million) to 42 lakhs (4.2 million) as opposed to the official count of 3,07,231 deaths.

Further, an Open Data Tracker suggests that over 512 people died due to oxygen shortage in hospitals between April and May 16. This aside from people who died waiting for beds and oxygen outside hospitals.

Following the hearing last week, the court scheduled the next hearing on June 11, allowing time for the central government to file an affidavit with relevant information for the demand for accountability on death certificates.

Related:

Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?
How did the Kumbh Mela attendance record drop to 21 Lakh from 49 Lakh?
Covid-19: Which Indian states tackled it effectively and how?
Upload information about children orphaned due to Covid: SC to Districts

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