A.G. acts on mortuary backlog

Attorney General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale, has confirmed that her office is working with the Police and the Ministry of Health to resolve a six-month backlog at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital’s mortuary.

But she said this will not remedied, until a Pathologist arrives to perform post-mortem examinations required by Police investigations, the the bodies there. Responding to inquiries from the Samoa Observer, the Attorney General said they are working to have the matters dealt with soonest.

“There was a recent arrangement for the pathologist to travel over but due to the fact that at the time a new Covid-19 case was suspected from New Zealand this flights from New Zealand were cancelled,” Savalenoa explained.

“Our office is working closely with the Ministry of Police and Ministry of Health to make arrangements for post mortems required for these bodies of persons whose deaths are suspicious. Post mortems are required for police investigations.”

The lockdowns from the measles and Covid-19 have impacted on the Pathologist’s travels over to Samoa for the autopsies, she said.

“The delay is an impact of the Covid-19 on the availability and travel of forensic pathologist required to conduct the post mortems on these bodies,” Savalenoa added.

“A forensic pathologist is required under law to conduct the post mortems and Samoa does not have its own forensic pathologist so Samoa has been relying on the generous assistances offered by pathologists in New Zealand and Australia.”

The Attorney General says the problem is not common because Pathologists have been able to travel to Samoa but Covid-19 has restricted travel.

“This has never been a problem before as pathologists were able to travel over every few months to conduct post mortems but the delays now are due to the restrictions on travel due to Covid-19,” Savalenoa said.

“We are working with Ministry of Police and Ministry of Health to have these matters dealt with soonest, through alternative arrangements.”

By law, a Pathologist is necessary in order to examine the body and confirm what caused the death of each victim.

Earlier this week, M.O.H. workers confirmed that there are six people, all males, whose bodies are at the mortuary, pending investigations by the Police and the A.G.’s office.

In the meantime, families of the deceased are awaiting the release of their loved ones’ bodies for funeral and burial.

One body has been at the mortuary for six months, M.O.H. workers told the Observer.

Workers surmise that the men were victims of deadly beatings. The six men are victims of alleged crimes being investigated by authorities.

It is not clear if any suspects have been charged in connection with the deaths of the six men.

Questions have been sent to Health Minister, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, and M.O.H. Chief Executive Officer Leausa Take Naseri.

A response was not received as of press time last evening.

Attempts to reach Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil were unsuccessful.

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