Monday, 5 August 2013

How Kenyan hospitals abet the illicit body parts trade

Kenyan hospitals are reluctant to adopt technology to identify unclaimed bodies thereby giving room for illicit body parts business to thrive, industry sources say.

Adopting modern biometric system on patients when they are admitted to hospital would be helpful in the identification process.

A source at Kenyatta National Hospital says his supervisors have been frustrating efforts to adopt technology to boost identification process.

Unidentified group

“My bosses have been fighting the use of fingerprint technology which helps in identification. This has helped make it much easier to have more bodies placed in the unidentified group which are later marked for disposal through city mortuary,” said the source at KNH mortuary.

“Action on the bodies begins once a body is piled in the ready-for-disposal group. It’s like a licence to tamper with the remains,” he said.

KNH had not officially responded to our inquiries on the process they follow in reducing unidentified bodies, most of which become targets of the deadly trade.

“There is a recent case where someone wanted a tooth as an exhibit in a court case. This is simple, all you need is just pluck it from the bodies lined up for disposal and give it to him. He paid Sh5,000,” the attendant told The Standard.

KNH public wing was handling about 900 bodies at the time of this investigation. It has a capacity to hold 300 bodies.

Best practice also demands that before disposal, bodies should be wrapped in a special bag so that they can be retrieved in future.

But in Kenya, most are buried in mass graves and unless a DNA test is conducted, it is increasingly getting difficult to trace and retrieve bodies when need arises.

Funeral Services Association of Kenya (FUSAK) is now calling for adoption of fingerprinting and videotaping technology to help in documentation and reducing the number of unknown people.

There is also need for regulation on how new institutions offering medical studies get their cadavers for learning purposes.

Though most bodies are acquired free of charge, some institutions are trading the bodies.

“They fetch about Sh75,000. This is the price we were selling them to Kenyatta University when they began their medical training school. Though they are not supposed to be sold, there are other costs such as embalming and storage that make it necessary that someone pays for them,” said Mr Ezra Olack, the national chairman of FUSAK.

Keeping brains for medical students is a most common practice. This is done most of the time even without the consent of relatives.

“They are placed in paper bags. Sometimes even briefcases are used to smuggle them out,” he says.

Water that’s been used to wash the dead is also regarded as a hot cake.

Several beliefs

“There are several beliefs about water used to wash the dead ranging from boosting business prospects to snagging husbands. This is one of the most demanded things,” an attendant at City Mortuary said.

“There was a time when a lady wanted to get someone’s husband. So she came for the water. I don’t know most of the details but when the man asked to bathe, the lady is said to have mixed the water with the one collected here and the man went berserk,” he chuckles.

It is understood that the disciplined forces demand for blood of the dead, mostly when one has died in mysterious circumstances.

Monday 5 August 2013


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