The family of the former Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) employee James Oyugi has been dealt a blow after the High Court in Siaya declined to issue orders to exhume his body for a decent burial.
Oyugi was buried in a shallow grave in the wee hours of April 12 without a coffin with the state announcing that he had succumbed to the novel Coronavirus disease.
The aggrieved family led by the deceased’s sister Joan Akoth Ajuang’ and his son Brian Oyugi moved to court seeking orders to exhume the body to allow for a biopsy and autopsy before a decent burial is conducted.
The petitioners also wanted the court to allow at least 15 members to witness the second burial.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, Siaya Health CEC Dorothy Owino, Attorney General and Ukwala Location chief were listed as respondents in the suit.
But in a ruling delivered on Monday, Justice Roseline Aburili said that although the court found that the officials from the Siaya County Government had flouted protocols for disposal of Covid-19 patients’ bodies as laid out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ministry guidelines, she noted that exhuming the body would expose the immediate family and the public to more harm.
“Exhuming the body and carrying out the autopsy would mean handling the body for even longer hours by the pathologist which would expose those handling the body to more danger,” she said.
On why she dismissed the request for autopsy, the judge stated that there was no evidence of irregularity demonstrated in the sampling and testing of the deceased for Covid-19 prior to the demise.
In her ruling, the Judge directed the Siaya County authorities to construct and cement the grave with high-quality materials to protect it from being wiped away by winds or possible digging by wild animals within three days of the judgement
The county government was also directed to meet the costs of the petition.
“It was wrong for those who buried the deceased in the dead of the night and without a coffin and denying the family the opportunity to give their loved one a decent send-off,” the Judge said.
“Every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected by State agencies. The right, I should emphasize, doesn’t end when one is dead.”
To prevent such from reoccurring, the judge directed that the state must going forward strictly comply with burial protocols issued by the ministry of health regarding the burial of patients who succumb to infectious diseases such as Covid-19.
Kenyans had expressed their disgust over how the government handled the first Siaya Covid-19 patient.
This led to the Senate demanding an explanation from CS Kagwe.
In his response to the Senate Ad Hoc Committee, Kagwe acknowledged that Oyugi was buried in an undignified manner.
The Senate later recommended that the CS contacts Oyugi’s family to make a private apology.