3 years

Morgue

Confessions of a Postmortem Room Attendant

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“We go out and get drug addicts to cut up the bodies. Since they are doped, they do not mind. We pay them a little for their dose.”

Touching a dead body is scary. If it is a clean body without any injuries, it is still bearable, but the accident bodies are the worst. 

Those of us who work as postmortem room attendants are always drunk. There is no other way one can do the job. Doctors hate conducting postmortems. They depend on us to cut up the body and pull out the internal organs, while they stand and watch. Quite often, they make their reports on the basis of what we tell them. 

Once the doctor has checked the parts, it is all put back into the body—not in the same order that it was pulled out or even the original place. We just push it all inside and sew up the body. Then we use a hose and wash it. On bodies that are intact, we scrub away the dried blood. 

Once a postmortem is done, we tag the body with a number tied to the toe. It is kept with us till a claimant arrives. The postmortem room is not fancy like they show in English serials or movies. It is a big room with open concrete shelves and a wooden table where the autopsy is done. There is a small weighing scale to weigh internal organs. We use a saw to cut the body as it becomes very stiff, and then pull out all the internal parts. If the doctor asks us to save a particular part, we keep it aside. 

You can’t do a job like this day in, day out. So we go out and get drug addicts to cut up the bodies. Since they are doped, they do not mind. We pay them a little for their dose and they are willing to do the job. But very often, even drug addicts refuse to do postmortems of accident victims. It is a horrible sight. Many times, we just tag them without doing the postmortem. 

Those of us who do the job cannot have normal lives. One keeps dreaming of these bodies at night. It is difficult to eat with your hands. Alcohol is my best friend as it helps me forget all this. Even hospital authorities do not mind that we are always drunk.

(He works with the Sir JJ Group of Hospitals, Mumbai)

As told to Haima Deshpande.