Observing that there are grievances from all over the country that all the deaths due to COVID-19 pandemic have not been appropriately recorded, the Madras High Court on Friday sought both the State and Centre to conduct a study by a specialised team and if needed, revise the death certificates already issued.
While hearing a plea moved by one HA Shrirajalakshmi seeking proper death certification enabling the kin of the deceased to obtain relief, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy pointed out that it was elementary that the major ailment suffered by a person may result ultimately in heart attack leading to death.
“However, the cause of the death in such a case cannot be attributed to just a heart-attack, but the underlying reason for the heart being attacked ought to be regarded as the real cause. So, it has to be done in case of deaths triggered by COVID-19 even if the person suffered from co-morbidities,” Chief Justice Banerjee held.
Also, noting that there were reports that unless a positive test report was issued, the subsequent death would not be recorded as a COVID death in Tamil Nadu, the bench said, “There are other issues pertaining to not attributing the death to COVID-19 in the event the patient had suffered from other ailments.”
Reiterating that accurate recording of deaths would help in studies conducted to deal with a pandemic of this nature in future, the bench added, “The immediate concern in some cases 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 COVID-19.”
Chief Justice Banerjee made clear on the need to conduct an appropriate study by a specialised team. “It would also be fit and proper to revise death certificates already issued, if necessary,” he added.
Seeking a preliminary response from the State when the matter is taken up next on June 28, the bench also directed forwarding a copy of the petition to the Additional Solicitor-General so that the Union’s response may also be obtained on the matter.