Minister puts corpse mix-up down to human error - RTHK
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Minister puts corpse mix-up down to human error

2022-05-13 HKT 13:48
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  • Minister puts corpse mix-up down to human error
Health Secretary Sophia Chan on Friday said she thinks a hospital blunder this week where the dead bodies of two elderly men were mixed up before one was cremated was not related to the pandemic and may be a case of human error.

Tuen Mun Hospital said it has met the families affected to apologise and express its condolences, and it will set up a panel to probe what went wrong.

At a Legco health services panel meeting, the DAB's Edward Leung asked Chan how a repeat of the incident can be avoided.

"In claiming back bodies or delivering them to different places, greater efforts should be made by Hospital Authority staff and members of the funeral sector, to confirm the identity of the deceased bodies, this is most critical," Chan said in reply.

The secretary said her bureau is very concerned about the case and she understands that family members may have strong views about it.

She said she has asked the Hospital Authority to fully review body collection procedures, and it has done so and made prompt improvements.

Tim Pang, who's from the Society for Community Organisation, said the mix-up was unacceptable, but a heavier workload faced by mortuary workers may have contributed to the mistake.

"During the Omicron outbreak, up to 200 more people die per day, on top of around 100 people who die of various causes. So, [the outbreak] creates more pressure to mortuary staff," he told RTHK.

Pang said he suspects that mortuary workers did not double-check the identities of the bodies with funeral home staff when the corpses were collected for cremation.

The patients' rights advocate noted that after a series of similar incidents around 15 years ago, the authorities reviewed body handling procedures, and such incidents have been very rare since.

He said so long as staff stick to those procedures, mix-ups should be avoided.