Psychosocial Experiences Of Post-Mortem Examination Performing Mortuary Staff In Uttar Pradesh, India

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Udita Srivastava (National Coordinator), Dr. Victor Paul (Head of Department), and Ram Ghulam Razdan (Pro-Vice-Chancellor)


This research aims to explore the working conditions under which PME performing mortuary sweepers work, and any psychological and/or social impacts that the nature of their work has on them.

In India, an autopsy or PME is done for every ‘unnatural death', in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure. The objective of medico-legal PMEs is to establish the identity of a body, ascertain the time since death, and the cause of death (homicidal, suicidal or accidental). A doctor trained in forensic medicine should conduct a PME, and may be assisted by a trained technician. However, the manual part of the post-mortem examinations is done by mortuary sweepers, under the guidance of a doctor. There are no Indian published studies that have explored PMEs from the perspective of mortuary sweepers, the prevalence and incidence of stress on their psychological and social well-being. This study explores that, along with their experiences of interactions with their social circle, the impression of the existing policies and procedures that affect them, the coping mechanisms employed, and the environmental and ergonomic conditions of their workspace.

This qualitative research study follows transcendental phenomenology, and has a sample size of 8 Districts (Bahraich, Barabanki, Basti, Gonda, Hardoi, Lucknow, Sitapur, and Sultanpur). Semi-structured interviews with open ended questions helped in data collection, which was analyzed using thematic analysis.

Major themes that emerged include the demographic profile of the participants, employment status, absence of formal training, and working conditions. Social impact of the job, psychological coping methods used, outlook towards the job, the social realization of the job’s importance, and desired changes were other prominent themes.

This research has implications for the development of intervention strategies designed to improve the quality of work environment and psychological health of PME performing mortuary sweepers.

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