It becomes necessary to exhume bodies from graves, when a suspicion
of poisoning or some foul play arises sometime after death, or it may be
only for the purpose of identification. In India, such a procedure is vrery
rare owing to the custom of cremating dead bodies among the Hindus, who
constitute the larger portion of the population.
Kules for Exhumation.—Under the written order of the District Magis-
trate or the Coroner the body should be exhumed in the early morning by
the medical officer in the presence of a police-officer. Before ordering the
digging of the grave he should examine the plan of the graveyard to fix
the exact situation of the grave, if any plan is available. After proceeding
to the place the name plate, if any, should be identified and the undertaker
should be asked to identify the stone if it is a pucca (masonry built) grave.
The grave should now be dug up and the coffin, if used, should be identified
by the undertaker who made it. Further, in cases of suspected mineral
poisoning, about a pound of the earth in actual contact with the coffin or
with the body (if the coffin is decayed or is not used) should be collected and
preserved in a dry, clean glass bottle for chemical analysis.
The coffin or the body should then be raised from the grave and the latter
should be identified by as many persons as possible, chiefly relatives, friends
or servants who might have been present at the time of preparing and dress-
ing the body for burial
Examination.—If the interment has been recent, post-mortem examina-
tion should be conducted in the usual manner either in the open near the
graveyard but screened off from public gaze, or at the mortuary. But in
the case of bodies which have lain underground for a sufficiently long time
to undergo putrefaction, an attempt should be made to determine the sex,
stature and marks of identification. Hair found on the body should be
preserved in a dry, clean glass bottle for subsequent identification and chemi-
cal analysis. All the cavities should be examined and as many viscera as
can be obtained should be preserved separately in dry, clean, wide-mouthed
glass bottles or jars without exposing them unnecessarily to the air and a
sufficient quantity of preservative should be added. The viscera should not
be brought in contact with any metal. These bottles or jars should then
be closed with well-fitting glass stoppers covered with skin, preferably
chamois leather, and delivered sealed to the Chemical Examiner on the same
day if he was living in the same town, or they should be forwarded to him
by a passenger train with the least possible delay. In the case of suspected
mineral poisoning, such as arsenic or antimony, hairs, nails and long bones,
such as the femur, should be preserved and sent to the Chemical Examiner.
Search should also be made for recent or old injuries, such as fractures.
Disinfectants.—Disinfectants should not be sprinkled on the body but
might be sprinkled on the ground in the neighbourhood of the body, To
avoid inhaling offensive gases, the medical officer should use for the mouth
a gauze mask dipped in a solution of potassium permanganate and should
wear thick India rubber gloves with gauntlets or photographic gloves, which
are always kept in every public mortuary in the Uttar Pradesh. He should
also stand on the windward side of the body.
Time of Exhumation.—In India and in England, no time-limit is fixed
for the disinterment of a body, but in Scotland, twenty years is the limit
fixed as no suspected person can be prosecuted for the perpetration of a
crime after the lapse of that period. In France, this period is reduced to
ten years and it is raised to thirty years in Germany.