Indian autopsies in Scarlette case ‘absolutely illegal’

April 16th, 2008 - 12:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Alfred de Tavares
Stockholm, April 16 (IANS) Swedish forensic experts have said the two autopsies carried out in India on the body of British teenager Scarlette Keeling, found dead on a beach in Goa, were “absolutely illegal”. They also expressed concern that her organs, found missing during a third autopsy in Britain, may have been illegally traded. Scarlette’s bruised and semi-naked body was found on the sea shore of Goa’s Anjuna beach just before dawn on Feb 18. Initially, Goa police said the 15-year-old had drowned.

However, Scarlette’s mother Fiona MacKeown accused the Goa police of malpractice and campaigned for a second post-mortem, which concluded that Scarlette had more than 50 bruises and that she had been given ecstasy, cocaine and LSD on the night she died. Police then announced she had been raped and murdered.

Swedish autopsy expert Per Arne Schedin told IANS: “It is not just incredible, but absolutely illegal, the way they (Indian officials) have proceeded in their ‘modus operandi’ of obducing the poor girl’s body.”

“During my service I have carried out more than a 100,000 autopsies in Sweden and other countries. The standard procedure is, from the most initial incision, to speak into a recorder every detail resorted to and most minutely observed.

“Where electronic recording is not available, an assistant takes notes during the process, dictated by the obducent. This protocol is the vital part of the eventual investigation and its accuracy cannot be exaggerated,” said Schedin, a 35-year veteran at Sweden’s world-renowned Karolinska Hospital’s Ratts Forensiska Avdelningen (judicial forensic department).

“What the Indian pathologists claim is most confounding. With present forensic advances, easily available in India, that they should find it so difficult to determine the results with greater accuracy is simply incredible.

“I confine myself to the professionalism in the case and do not wish to comment on the oversight of exterior signs of violence on the body that was reported from day one of this death,” Schedin added.

The Daily Mail reported Monday that Scarlette’s mother, who had taken her body back to Britain, said some internal organs were missing. MacKeown was furious because nobody in India had sought her permission to remove Scarlette’s organs.

The missing organs - said to include kidneys, uterus and stomach - were reported after British forensic scientists conducted a third autopsy on the body.

Authorities in Goa said that taking parts of the body for tests was a part of the post-mortem procedure, the paper reported.

Schedin said: “When removal of organs is involved, if prior permission is neither possible nor feasible, those we are responsible to - mostly the police authorities - are duly informed. And any organ extracted for purposes of forensic investigation is meticulously restored into the body or, as and when required, otherwise preserved.

“We followed this procedure strictly in Thailand after the horrendous tsunami. I carried out over a thousand autopsies. Even in cases in a far state of decomposition, all organs and matter extracted was duly restored or returned with the corpse.”

A colleague of Schedin, who did not wish to be identified, said: “In the face of grave reports of illegal organ transactions in some countries, we are concerned that highly coveted organs of young, healthy people who have succumbed to tragedies may command tempting lures.”

“There have been cases of Swedish deaths in India. Their mutilated bodies have been returned after apparently nonchalant autopsies. Even cases of distinct unnatural deaths have been certified as natural ones. Swedish authorities have been duly notified in every case. What steps they have then taken we do not know,” he added.

(Alfred de Tavares can be contacted at alfredtavares@hotmail.com)

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