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Deaths Due to COVID-19 Should Be Reported Accurately: Madras HC

The court said if deaths are not reported accurately, it could impede efforts to truly understand the scale of the pandemic and also prevent families from seeking the relief that they are entitled to.
Madras high court. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Yoga Balaji CC BY 3.0

New Delhi: The Madras high court on Friday said that across the country, there are grievances that all deaths caused by COVID-19 have not been properly recorded, saying this could impede efforts to truly understand the scale of the pandemic and also prevent families from seeking the relief that they are entitled to.

According to LiveLaw, the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made this observation while hearing a petition that sought direction to the Tamil Nadu government to implement an effective policy “to ensure that cause of death is properly and correctly mentioned in the relevant certificate/official document for all cases of COVID-19 related deaths in accordance with the law, ICMR guidelines and other relevant parameters, including international standards”. This, the petition said, would enable families to avail government schemes without any hindrance.

The court said that as far as Tamil Nadu was concerned, a person’s death was not recorded as being due to COVID-19 unless a positive test report was issued. “There are other issues pertaining to not attributing the death to Covid-19 in the event the patient suffered from other ailments.” the bench noted.

The court said that that though while accurately recording deaths due to COVID-19 would help in “studies being undertaken to deal with a pandemic of this nature in the future”, the immediate concern is that the relief that the family of a person who died due to COVID-19 is otherwise entitled to may not be available, unless the death certificate attributes the cause of death to the viral infection.

According to LiveLaw, the court remarked:

“It is elementary that the major ailment suffered by a person may result ultimately in the heart being attacked and the death due to such attack. However, the cause of the death in such a case may not be appropriately attributed to just a heart attack, but the underlying reason for the heart being attacked ought to be regarded as the real cause. So has it to be done in case of deaths triggered off by Covid-19, even if the person suffered from co-morbidities.”

The court said that an appropriate study should be conducted by a specialised team to ascertain the cause of death, if necessary.

“It would also be fit and proper to require death certificates already issued to be revised, if necessary; if only not to deny the relief due to the family of the deceased in terms of the several schemes announced by the Central and the state governments,” the court noted.

The court said it would address the issue in a more detailed manner on June 28, by which time it hoped that the preliminary responses of the state and Central governments would be available.

Official figures released by the Union ministry of health on Saturday put the death toll due to COVID-19 at just over 3.67 lakh. Experts have said that the true toll could be four times higher, as several deaths are being ‘missed’ by the official figures.

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