Relatives of Sea Lots businessman Cedric “Burkie” Burke have been given the green light to have a private autopsy performed on his body following his death from COVID-19 last week.
Guardian Media understands that relatives, who are seeking an independent review of the circumstances of his death, which was allegedly due to the virus, were given the all-clear by Ministry of Health officials late yesterday.
Due to the short notice, however, arrangements could not be made to have it performed yesterday morning as suggested. The precise arrangements, including the new time, had not been finalised by the parties up to late yesterday.
According to reports, Burke went to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital on September 9 and complained of feeling unwell. The following day he was transferred to the Arima Hospital, which is one of the facilities designed for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. He was then transferred to the Couva Medical and Multi-training Facility, where he spent a night before dying the following afternoon.
In a pre-action protocol letter issued on Saturday, attorneys Richard Clarke-Wills, Lemuel Murphy and Chelsea John, who are representing his family, claimed their clients were not satisfied with the cause of death suggested by health officials. They claimed that earlier that day, Burke spoke to several people, including Clarke-Wills and claimed that he was administered with a substance that made him feel “numb and uneasy”.
The attorneys requested that Burke’s medical records be disclosed and that his body be preserved if they required an independent autopsy.
The following day, the ministry agreed to the request and began providing the documents, which were to be considered by the family’s independent medical expert before they decide on whether an autopsy is required or not.
Under the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 policies and guidelines, autopsies are not performed on deceased patients, who undergo mandatory cremation or burial.
The ministry’s policy also provides a method for relatives to have a final viewing but under strict conditions, including no physical contact and three feet of physical distancing.