morgue, mortuary, dead body
Illustrative image. Image Credit: iStockphoto

A family in Kolkata was forced to keep the body of their 71-year-old relative in an ice-cream freezer who died at home on June 29 because doctors refused to issue a death certificate before receiving coronavirus test results.

The body was removed by civic authorities after 48 hours of the man's death after the family contacted several government departments.

The issue started when doctors refused to issue a death certificate without the COVID-19 test result and without a death certificate, mortuaries refused to accept the body.

The family said that calls to the health department, civic authorities, the police and politicians did not help.

On the morning of June 30, the family got home an ice-cream freezer to preserve the body. That evening, the test results returned and the deceased man tested positive for COVID-19.

The body was finally removed by Kolkata Municipal Corporation employees at 3pm on July 1, around 48 hours after the man’s death. The Amherst Street building in which the man lived was sanitised 50 hours after he died.

The elderly man had gone to the doctor on June 29 with breathing difficulties and he was asked to take a test for coronavirus.

His health worsened when he returned home and he died at around 3pm, local news outlets reported.

After his death, a doctor visited the man's apartment in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit but refused to issue a death certificate and urged the family to contact the health department or the police.

The police directed the family to the local councillor, who reportedly did not respond.

"We even made several calls to the helpline given to us by a person when we called up the health department but nobody responded," a family member was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI).

The family then called mortuaries but that they refused to accept the body without a death certificate, according to local media reports.

"Calls were not answered. That's why decided to keep his body at home inside a freezer," the family member added.

"In fact even after getting the test reports we kept on calling the state health department but there was no response. On Wednesday [July 1] morning, health department finally called up and set the process in motion for removing the body for last rites," he said.