India to soon adopt ‘virtual autopsy’ procedure

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NEW DELHI: India will soon adopt the “virtual autopsy” procedure — which involves conducting postmortem by scanning the organs, bones and tissues instead of making an incision or dissecting the body — with AIIMS, Delhi and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) jointly working on the technique that is expected to become functional in the next six months.
Answering supplementaries on a question in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said India would be the first country to start “virtual autopsy” in the south-east Asian region. Switzerland, UK, Germany, CanadaAustraliaJapan, Hong Kong, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Israel, and all the Middle-East countries have already adopted the virtual autopsy procedure.
“ICMR and AIIMS have studied global practices and taken up this project for ‘dignified management of dead body’,” Vardhan said, underlining how family members of the deceased, already troubled by the unnatural death, felt all the more uncomfortable seeing the sutures and incision marks on the body after the postmortem.
The minister said virtual autopsy was both time-effective, taking 30 minutes as compared to two-and-a-half hours in case of a traditional postmortem, and cost-effective. Besides, since the reports were stored digitally, it offered the option of a review, unlike cases where cremation ruled out this possibility.
ICMR has provided Rs 5 crore to AIIMS for this purpose and the process is in an advance stage for getting a CT machine, the minister said.
In the beginning, Harsh Vardhan said, virtual autopsy facility would be limited to AIIMS but it could be introduced in other institutions of the country, with AIIMS providing the training.
Around 3,000 autopsies are done at AIIMS each year, the minister informed the Lok Sabha.