LAHORE  - The Punjab government has decided to establish a database for unidentified patients or persons who died of any reason at hospitals or elsewhere, TheNation has learnt.

The Home Department has issued policy guidelines in this regard, a source said. As per standard operating procedures (SOPs), Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) in collaboration with the Punjab government will prepare and run the databank while details of unidentified bodies will be provided by Station House Officers of the respective area and Medical Superintendents of the hospitals where an unknown patient was died.

It will be responsibility of the same SHO to shift the body to hospital for post-mortem. The same officer will ensure arrangements for finger prints, face images and other information. The body will be kept in mortuary till all the legalities were met.

Moreover, the standard operating procedures said that the police will give advertisements in the national dailies and ten-day (or four weeks in special cases) time period will be given for the purpose. After the time is over, a DNA test will be organised and if after completion of the exercise, if failed to identify the corpse, the police will hand over the body to anatomy department of any teaching hospital.

The record of the case will also be handed over to the hospital authorities. If the hospital needed no bodies, it will be handed over to any welfare organisation for burial. The burial of the unidentified body will be duly made in presence of the SHO or Union Council Secretary, the SOPs said. The same officers will ensure the entry of the burial of the person in the register on the spot.

Moreover, the SHO will give the relevant section at DPO office within 24-hrs that will be added on the website. The same will be done at the District Headquarters Hospitals by the Medical Superintendents. The PITB will share the data with the DPOs, RPOs, DCOs, and MS’ besides making training arrangements to the police and the hospital staff.

An expert said the SOPs will help people deal with the psychological impact of such disasters besides making binding on the police to follow them. Earlier, he said, the police were used to declare the body unidentified and arrange the burial without ensuring ads in national newspapers as it lacked funds for the purpose.

A police officer appreciated the government’s initiative and said that SOPs will not serve the purpose without provision of funds for executing procedures. He said that the government did not ensure funds for burial of unidentified persons and the police have to arrange for it on their own.

The WHO recommended capacity for a field morgue is 10 bodies per 10,000 population and storage temperature 4ºC, the official said and grieved over lack of such facilities even in big cities like Lahore. He said that the government should also provide funds for the purpose. He said that it must be deemed that visual identification was not scientific and in emergency cases this was even more difficult.

The process of identification, the police official said, must begin even before a body is found or as soon as a person is reported missing. This involves collecting ante-mortem data that refer to any information collected during a person’s life. The services of NADRA, he said, might be of great use in this regard. If available such information includes details how a person was dressed at the time of their disappearance. He said that he visited many countries that maintain post-mortem as well as ante-mortem records as an essential component of the identification process. He said that the coordination among PITB, NADRA, district administration and police, hospital authorities and cooperation of people was must to make the exercise productive. Commenting on the Punjab government’s move, a medical expert said that an autopsy is normally performed by a pathologist and other professionals like dentists, anthropologists (if the body is decomposed) are asked to examine the remains. If possible, the medical experts should collect fingerprints and samples for DNA analysis and their expertise be used in court. The medical expert also demanded the government to provide special salary and training to the staff dealing with autopsy and maintaining morgue at hospitals.