Tokyo, May 7 (Jiji Press)–Legal medicine departments at many universities across Japan are seeing their requests to have corpses tested for the novel coronavirus rejected by the country’s public health centers.
“Whether there is an infection is an important piece of information even from a corpse, so the country should set up a regime for rigorous testing,” one forensic medicine expert said.
A survey of doctors by the Japanese Society for Forensic Pathology found that there were 12 cases since late January in which requests to health centers for polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests for the novel coronavirus on corpses were denied.
The survey covered around 80 member universities and medical institutions, of which 26 gave responses.
One institution that dissected the corpse of a man in his 70s in early April consulted a public health center over the possibility of the man having had COVID-19. The man died in his house where he lived alone, and relevant people told the institution that he had a slight fever for several days before his death.
However, the health center rejected a request for testing his body for the coronavirus, saying that the corpse is not subject to tests as it is not clear whether the man had close contact with infected patients.
Another medical institution also saw its request for a health center to test a dead man in his 30s for the virus rejected.
There was a low chance of COVID-19 being the cause of his death, but the man died after staying in a hospital where infections spread to multiple people.
The institution sought to have the man’s corpse tested due to concerns of potential infections among people who had contact with the body during its dissection.
On the other hand, public health centers did conduct tests on corpses after receiving requests in 11 cases, such as for a corpse of a man who was suspected to have died from pneumonia based on computerized tomography, or CT, scans taken postmortem. All of these cases turned out negative for the virus.
In light of frequent rejections by health centers to test the corpses, legal medicine departments at several universities have begun conducting posthumous PCR tests on their own. Such universities include Chiba University, Wakayama Medical University and Nagasaki University.
“If the deceased test positive, information of such people before their deaths can be utilized to prevent the spread of the virus, while negative results can still give reassurance to those who had contact with the patients,” Toshikazu Kondo, head of the Japanese Society for Forensic Pathology and professor at Wakayama Medical University, said. “There should be a testing regime for corpses.”