No cuts to body, no hurt feelings
Virtual autopsy, as the term suggests, involves examining the internal organs, tissues and bones in the dead body without touching it.
The body is packed in a bag, which is then put through a CT scan machine and within seconds, thousands of images of the internal organs are captured, which are analysed further by forensic experts.
NEW DELHI: For a family that has lost someone to an unnatural death – be it suicide or accident – the grief is compounded when they have to witness the deceased’s dissected and sutured body after the postmortem.
Autopsy, which is essentially the procedure to examine the external and internal organs of the deceased to assess the cause and manner of death, involves cutting open the body. “Most families don’t want it done. But they have no choice as post-mortem is an important part of police investigation in case of an unnatural death,” says Dr Sudhir Gupta, professor and head of forensic medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Dr Gupta and his team are, therefore, starting out an experiment, with the support of Indian Council of Medical Research, where autopsy will be conducted virtually. It is an established practice in many western countries, for example Switzerland.
Virtual autopsy, as the term suggests, involves examining the internal organs, tissues and bones in the dead body without touching it. The body is packed in a bag, which is then put through a CT scan machine and within seconds, thousands of images of the internal organs are captured, which are analysed further by forensic experts.
AIIMS conducts nearly 3,000 autopsies every year. Autopsies using conventional methods takes anywhere between 30 minutes and three days, depending on the complexity of the case and the availability of experts.
The head of the forensics department said they have already set up a digital X-ray machine to conduct autopsy of the deceased with bone injuries or fractures caused after an accident. “We had been researching a lot on virtual autopsy. The project, however, requires investment in terms of buying CT scan machine and creating a new post-mortem room for the same. The ICMR’s new initiative to select 10 projects for funding under its ‘Centre for Advanced Research and Excellence program came as a boon. The ICMR head Dr Balram Bhargava liked our idea and approved funding for the virtual autopsy project,” Dr Gupta added.
He said that in virtual autopsy, the deceased’s records are available in digital format and thus it permits additional analysis by other forensic pathologists on the same body; second or third opinion even after years if some allegations crop up in the future.