It was traumatic mortuary attendant substituted my sister’s corpse with another –Delta man

Patrick Akpuma is the younger brother of the late Mrs Patient Amughoro, whose corpse went “missing” at a mortuary in Delta State. 

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What is your name and who are you to the deceased?

I am Patrick Akpuma. The deceased, Patient Amughoro, is my sister.

It was in the news that the corpse of the deceased got missing in the mortuary. What really happened?

My sister (the deceased) had been suffering from cancer which cost us a lot of money. We moved her from the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara to the University Teaching Hospital in Enugu, but she eventually died on January 19, 2021. In the early hours of January 20, we took her body to Isi and Origho Glorious Home, a mortuary.

We got there around 2am and deposited the body there. The mortuary attendants told us that when the day broke they would do what they were supposed to on the body.  The body was given Identification Number 267; we then left.

We started making preparation for burial and we eventually picked February 20 as the burial date. But when we got to the mortuary on the morning of Saturday, February 20, to pick the corpse, we were shocked to see that her body had already been prepared and put in a casket that we submitted to the mortuary a day before.

 

Why was that shocking to you?

We were shocked because the ideal thing is that before the mortuary attendants prepare the body and put it in a coffin, the owners of the corpse ought to be around to identify the body and ascertain that it is their own. But in this case, by the time we got to the mortuary, the corpse had already been prepared and put in the casket. As we were checking it, it was the eldest son of the deceased that first raised the alarm that the body in the casket was not their mother’s. Then we, the siblings of the deceased, also looked and realised that it was a different body that was prepared and put in the casket and not our sister’s. But the mortuary attendant, called Stanley, insisted that that was the corpse that we brought to the mortuary. And he kept saying it confidently, despite our insistence that the corpse in the casket was not that of our sister. We then began to point out to him some of the physical features we used to identify our sister’s body. We told him that there was a mark on her body and also that because she was a cancer patient before her death, she had no hair on her head. But the head of the corpse prepared and put in the casket was covered with hair. But the mortuary attendant insisted that the chemical he used to prepare her body removed the mark. For the hair, he said corpses grow hair while in the mortuary. It was at that point that we left and invited the police, who came and arrested the mortuary attendant.

After the mortuary attendant was arrested, what then happened?

The mortuary attendant told the police to give him a second chance to go and search for the corpse in the mortuary. But the police told him that if they released him to go and search for the body he might be lynched by angry villagers. So, the police ordered the mortuary management to allow us go in and search for my sister’s corpse. They agreed and all of us then went to the morgue. We searched and eventually found my sister’s body. Immediately we saw her body, we easily identified it with the mark still on her body; we also saw the red Cutex (nail polish) she applied to her leg before she died and there was no hair on the head.

Do you think there was a foul play or the mortuary attendant made an honest mistake?

Well, I cannot tell now; but what I can say is that there was a mistake of identity because the number they gave my sister was the same number on the corpse they wanted us to carry. My sister was 60 years old while the woman they wanted us to carry was 83 years old.

 

How do you feel about the incident?

We felt very bad. It is a very shameful thing to us. You can imagine how one would feel, after we had prepared for the burial and invited people, only for us to get to the mortuary to bring the body for burial and the story changed. At a point, some persons were advising us to accept the (wrong) corpse, saying that  ‘dead body is dead body’, urging the family to be careful with mortuary attendants, who are viewed as extraordinary people.

Are there lessons people must learn from this incident?

People should always ensure that they check the casket they submit to the mortuary carefully and make sure they carry the corpse that belongs to them. This is how mortuary attendants do some shady deals with corpses. We must be careful and alert. If we were not careful, we would have ended up burying a corpse that does not belong to us and that would have caused another problem for the family.

Have the police released the mortuary attendant that was arrested?

As of Wednesday (February 24), he was still in detention. We are not really concerned about that; what is important to us is that we have found our sister’s corpse. It is left for the police to decide when to release him (mortuary attendant).

Is your family demanding any compensation from the mortuary management?

There was a tripartite meeting of the family and friends of the mortuary manager, the DCO, Oghara Divisional Police Headquarters, and members of my family on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 in the DCO’s office.

Though we, the family members of the deceased, insisted on having talks with representatives of the management of the mortuary and not the family of the mortuary manager who was alleged to have committed the blunder, the DCO assured us that the most important thing was that our demands were met.

Top on our demands was publication of admittance of professional misconduct and tendering of an unreserved apology to the family of the deceased for all the inconveniences they have caused us in any of the national tabloids.

As for monetary compensation, negotiations are still inconclusive. The family members of the mortuary manager who were full of apologies at the meeting pleaded for leniency; noting that no one is above mistake. The meeting ended on a friendly note.

 

We are not too comfortable with the attitude of the mortuary management. We were not really interested in talking with the family of the mortuary attendant; it was the mortuary management that we wanted to talk to. But the family of the mortuary attendant has been coming to meet us and I told the father of the mortuary attendant that the issue was the responsibility of the mortuary management.

Our sister actually made us go through many hurdles; we spent N2m treating her; even her last medical trip to the Teaching Hospital Enugu was very hectic and she passed on two days after being admitted in the hospital. It has not been really easy for the family and for the family to go into any form of litigation it will be another hurdle.

We are not out to make money out of my sister’s corpse, but sometimes, one needs to do the needful for the sake of history; we want it to be on record that members of the families are enlightened and took the right steps; and to also let this serve as a deterrent to others.

Culled from the punch.

 

 

 

 

 

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