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Jan 12, 2021

N.F.S.S. to Continue Using Belize Medical College for Forensic Autopsies

On January fifth, cabinet announced following a weekly briefing that authorization had been given to the National Forensic Science Service to enter into a formal agreement with Central America Health Sciences University.  For years, the forensics department had been using the Belize Medical College anatomy lab to conduct post-mortem examinations on bodies found in advanced decomposition. But that informal arrangement was made official today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. News Fives Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The mortality rate for victims of COVID-19, particularly those who were confirmed positive after death, has prompted a formal agreement between the National Forensic Science Service and Central America Health Sciences University.  The Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties ensures that forensic autopsies can be done at this facility, amid growing concerns of exposure by employees at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.


Gian Cho

Gian Cho, Executive Director, N.F.S.S.

“The need for a secure space to conduct forensic autopsies was highlighted last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We actually, in 2020, conducted over sixty percent of all our autopsies or post mortem exams here at the CAHSU morgue.  That was the first year, 2020 was the first year where majority of our post mortems were done here.  Prior to that, all the post mortems were done at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Morgue.  Obviously, because of concerns about staff becoming infected, about concerns with contacts with COVID positive cadavers and high traffic of individuals we needed or we stood to benefit a lot from using this space at CAHSU.”


And, the Belize Medical College will also benefit from the M.O.U. since students will now be able to sit in on post-mortems related to medico-legal death investigations.  For the health science university, access to fresh cadavers simply means cutting the cost of having to import from the United States.


Errol Vanzie

Dr. Errol Vanzie, Consultant, CAHSU

“In the past, we used to bring cadavers mainly from the U.S. at a high expense and logistically difficult to bring and then we have to return the body one or two years after.  Now we have the opportunity of having fresh bodies in country where students can come, look first and participate eventually in the dissection of the human body.  And so that was the reason, one of the main reasons why we were encouraged to enter into this agreement with the forensics services of Belize.”


For the National Forensic Science Service, the idea of an official partnership came out of a visit from several experts attached to the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy.  Together, they identified CAHSU’s facility as the most suitable for conducting these types of autopsies.


Gian Cho

“The morgue here, or what the CAHSU calls the anatomy lab, was identified as one of the more ideal locations to conduct autopsies, given the space requirements and given the facilities.  So that was decided back in 2018, that was recommended and as part of this institution, the CAHSUs efforts at becoming accredited and also as part of the National Forensic Science Services long-term plan of attaining accreditation, such informal relationships need to be formalized, in this case, as an M.O.U.”


Administration Manager Keishalyn Belezaire says the partnership, despite not being legally binding, allows CAHSU to fulfill the requirements of its accreditation process.


Keishalyn Belezaire

Keishalyn Belezaire, Administration Manager, CAHSU

“One of our key components of our charter requires that we satisfy an affiliation with government agencies, none more better than the forensics department.  As Mr. Cho has rightly said, it provides educational expertise for students, so thats our number one benefit, as well as it satisfies our ongoing accreditation process.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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