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Building a forensic science building to safeguard public safety and hygiene

Lo Choi In, Aliança de Sustento e Economia de Macau

“Death” is an inevitable stage of life, and this end point of life should be respected and valued by the society. However, due to Chinese customs and culture, the topic of death is taboo and avoided, and is rarely discussed. As a result, relevant policies such as end-of-life care, crematorium facilities, hospital mortuary manpower and support facilities have remained stagnant for many years. However, the fact that we have turned a blind eye and avoided discussion does not mean that the problem does not exist. On the contrary, it has made it difficult to protect the final dignity of each and every one of our lives.

When we look back at the pandemic period, the death toll soared and the mortuaries were almost paralysed. While the final dignity of the deceased could not be achieved, what followed was a public health crisis.

Excluding the impact of the epidemic, the average annual number of deaths in Macau in the past decade has reached more than 2 000, but the hospital mortuaries responsible for the temporary storage of dead bodies only have a few dozen compartments, so in actual operation, it is often necessary to share the space, which may not always guarantee the final dignity of the deceased. It is learnt that there are even cases in which the bodies of family members cannot be claimed or disposed of in a timely manner due to various reasons or procedures. It should be noted that mortuaries are only for temporary storage, and their storage temperature is not below zero but only 4 degrees Celsius. If they are stored for a long period of time, cellular decomposition and decay will occur, which will not only further compress and reduce the number of compartments, but will also easily lead to public health risks. However, over the years, the relevant issues have not been taken seriously by the relevant departments and the community, and under such conditions, it is even more difficult to comply with the legal requirements of the Lei de prevenção, controlo e tratamento de doenças transmissíveis..

On the other hand, the forensic department, which is responsible for upholding social justice, defending the dignity of the deceased and restoring the truth, not only has its working space been limited, but also its related facilities and equipment have not been given due attention and improved over the years, such as the negative pressure air exchange system and hydraulic lifting beds. Facing a high-risk working environment, it is difficult to protect the safety of forensic pathologists themselves, and there is also a threat to the public health environment.

On the other hand, our neighbouring city, Hong Kong, completed and opened the Forensic Science Building last year, which provides 830 storage spaces for dead bodies and combines the functions of a public mortuary, autopsy research, forensic investigation, teaching and training, and so on.

The efforts made by the Macau SAR Government and the relevant departments in upgrading the standard of public healthcare services are evident to the community, but we hope that the SAR Government and the healthcare departments will not neglect one thing at the expense of the other. They should give priority to the well-being of the general public, maintain a pragmatic and rational attitude of governance, actively expand and improve the relevant facilities according to the actual needs of the society, and start the promotion of hospice care services as soon as possible when the problem of aging persists, so as to guard and defend the final dignity of every deceased person with practical actions and policies. Regarding the controversial issue of the location of crematoria, it is suggested that the Government should make reference to the practices of neighbouring regions and make good use of the sea area management area granted by the Central Government, or make full use of the newly reclaimed land to build a multi-functional forensic science building at a site far away from residential areas, so as to respond to the development and needs of society.

Aliança de Sustento e Economia de Macau

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