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Procedure for Preservation and Disposal of Dead Bodies in Hospital

T. Millo, Arun Agnihotri, Shakti Gupta, T.D. Dogra

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Key Words: Disposal, Dead Bodies, Mortuary, Hospital, Medicolegal case (M.L.C.)

During preservation and disposal of dead bodies, almost care must be taken as it can lead to exchange of dead bodies due to wrong identification. Identification of body is the responsibility of the relative and police in Medicolegal cases.


In hospital set up, there is a need for awareness regarding the standard procedure to be followed for storage and disposal of dead body. In this respect the mortuary had an important role. So in this article, we will discuss the guidelines in relation to storage and disposal of dead bodies, considering various medicolegal aspects.


It is the responsibility of every hospital to dispose off the dead body in a proper way. Therefore it is necessary to have a clear guideline regarding the preservation and disposal of the dead body taking into consideration the medicolegal aspects in various situations and circumstances. The procedure and legal rules may vary from state to state.

Preservation of Dead Body

Mortuary is an important integral part of every hospital as it deals with the preservation of the dead body so that the pathologist (clinical or forensic) may investigate the cause of death and make other scientific investigations; bodies may be viewed and identified by relatives and friends (unidentified body), and bodies may be kept until burial can be arranged. The mortuary should preferably be near the pathology department and easily accessible from the ward and emergency department. A hearse approach, screened from the view of patients and public, is essential.

(a) The types of dead body preserved in the mortuary can be classified as

1. Non-medicolegal

  • Identified
  • Unknown

2. Medicolegal

  • Identified
  • Unknown

(b) Documentation in mortuary

The maintenance of a full and accurate record of the body brought to the mortuary and its effect is one of the most important tasks of the mortuary technician. All morticians should keep a mortuary register. It is preferred to have a large heavy book that cannot be easily lost or removed. The following details of every body brought into the mortuary should be recorded in this book.

  • Give a number to each body. These number run consecutively from January 1 to December in each year.
  • Name, sex, age of the deceased person.
  • Date and time of death
  • Identification marks of the deceased and finger impressions may also be noted.
  • Details of near relatives e.g. name, relationship, address and phone number should be noted.
  • Weather or not an autopsy was carried out.
  • If autopsy done, then date and time of autopsy and name of the autopsy surgeon.
  • Date and time when the body is placed in the cold storage.
  • Length of the body and breadth across the shoulder (helps in making coffin of correct size).
  • A list of valuables, which have not been removed from the body such as rings, bangles and others.
  • Signature of the mortuary technician who allows body to be taken away.
  • Date and time when the body is removed.
  • Documentation if feasible should be computerized.
  • Name of the relatives or police collecting the body.

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