Home > Counties > Nakuru County to dispose of 48 unclaimed bodies

Nakuru County to dispose of 48 unclaimed bodies

Nakuru County will dispose of some 48 unclaimed bodies from public mortuaries within 21 days if they are not collected.

The devolved unit has further released a list of the unclaimed bodies, indicating the exact place of death and date as well as the cause of death.

A notice issued by the County Secretary, Dr. Samuel Mwaura, indicated that the corpses that presently lie at the County Referral and Teaching Hospital Mortuary and Annex PGH Public Mortuary had been unclaimed for over three months, affecting services at the facilities.

“The following 24 unclaimed bodies are lying at the County Referral and Teaching Hospital Mortuary and a further 24 at the Public Mortuary (Annex PGH), Teaching Hospital Mortuary, from the state of admission.

Interested members of the public are asked to identify and collect the bodies within twenty-one days, failing which Nakuru County will seek authority for disposal,” the public notice added.

According to the list released by Dr. Mwaura, some of the unclaimed bodies had identities by the time of collection, while others did not, thus remaining unknown. Some of the corpses marked as unknown were recovered by police without any form of identification documentation.

However, the County Secretary said a court order will be first sought so as to allow them to dispose of the corpses if no one will claim them, pursuant to the Public Health Act, Cap. 242 [Subsidiary Public Health (Public Mortuaries) Rules, 1991].

Dr. Mwaura stated that the two facilities have exhausted all the available mechanisms to trace their next of kin without success.

“If the next of kin are not traced, the disposal will be done after the expiry of twenty-one (21) days from the date of this letter at the Nakuru South Cemetery,” the notice read in part.

Every few months, mortuaries run public notices of the disposal of bodies. Upon expiry of the notice, the bodies are buried in public cemeteries or in mass graves without the knowledge of their loved ones. Unfortunately, the bodies are buried with no rites.

The disposal is carried out to create room and to avoid overstretching the facilities where the bodies are preserved.

The Public Health Act (Cap 242) mortuary rule stipulates that no person shall keep the dead in a mortuary for more than 10 days. If a body remains unclaimed for 21 days, the hospital is allowed to dispose of it as long as they have court orders and have given a 14-day public notice.

The statement released also revealed that the causes of death for the deceased are road accidents, murder, drowning, shooting, natural death, sudden death, abortion, and mob injustice. Few cases have been indicated to be those of natural death.

According to a counselling psychologist, Mr. Ochieng Okuku, the reason there are many unclaimed bodies is that most families do not know that their loved ones have died.

“Often, there is a breakdown in communication. The relatives haven’t spoken to the victim in a long time and assume they are alive, yet their kin’s body is somewhere in a mortuary,” he said.

He added that most unclaimed bodies are mostly of unknown people whose causes of death are unnatural.

“It is difficult to track down families of victims who die unnatural deaths, and the police cannot identify the fingerprints of the deceased,” he said.

Police play a critical role in identifying the fingerprints of the deceased.

A criminal investigation expert explained that a postmortem is conducted by a coroner after the family is made aware, after which they can claim the body.

A coroner is a qualified person whose duty is to investigate the cause of any death occurring due to a non-natural cause. He or she will generally not be involved if a person dies from some natural illness or disease for which he or she is being treated.

The investigation of sudden and unexplained deaths takes many forms. In Kenya, this has mostly been done through a public inquest established under Sections 385–387 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

In 2017, Parliament enacted the National Coroners’ Service Act, providing the framework for the investigation of reported deaths.

But implementation of the National Coroners Service Act of 2017 has been delayed by a legal bottleneck over which cabinet secretary should name the coroner-general and determine the terms of the coroners’ service.

The Act transferred the investigation of unnatural and violent deaths, including those in police custody and prison, from the police to the coroner-general, an independent office whose occupant is competitively appointed by the Cabinet Secretary responsible for matters relating to justice upon recommendation by the Public Service Commission.

By Anne Mwale

Leave a Reply