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Bodies switched in mortuary blunder, man misses his own funeral

Investigation under way

The bodies of two men were switched at the mortuary last week resulting in the wrong burial of one of them. File photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

The bodies of two men were switched at the mortuary last week resulting in the wrong burial of one of them. File photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

A mix-up at the Mater Dei Hospital mortuary last week led to the burial of the wrong body, with relatives making the shocking discovery when the corpse of their loved one was nowhere to be found.

The incident was discovered when a granddaughter of one of the two men went to the mortuary to visit her grandfather’s coffin.

Once up close, the woman was shocked to see that the body lying inside the coffin that supposedly belonged to her grandfather, was actually that of another man.

She alerted the staff at the mortuary and upon further investigation it emerged that the man’s body was no longer at the mortuary but had already been buried after being mistaken for someone else.

Contacted about the incident, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry confirmed that a coffin was erroneously released for burial one day last week. An internal investigation to determine what caused the mix-up is currently under way, the ministry spokeswoman said.

“Action will be taken to strengthen control mechanisms that already exist but apparently failed in this case,” the spokeswoman told the Times of Malta.

She did not divulge any details about what sort of action would be taken once the inquiry is completed.

However, sources who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the two hospital staff involved have since been suspended.

The sources explained that both men had died of a heart attack at their homes and were moved to the Mater Dei Hospital mortuary on the same day.

The funeral for one of the men was held early last week while that for the second man was planned for two days later. When they were first transferred to the mortuary, both men had the necessary documents that are normally used to identify bodies there.

However, the sources explained that while the staff were preparing the bodies for the funeral rites, they accidentally swapped these documents.

After the discovery was made, the relatives of the first man, whose funeral had already taken place but in the absence of the deceased, were informed of the blunder and another private ceremony was held at the next day.

* Names have been withheld out of respect for the two men and their relatives.

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