Questions linger on legality of detaining dead bodies over hospital bills

Dr Khasakhala died of Covid-19 but yet to be buried over Sh18 million hospital bill

Dr. Lincoln Khasakhala

Questions have emerged on the legality of hospitals detaining dead bodies over pending hospital bills.

This is after the death of Nairobi University don and doctor Lincoln Khasakhala who died of Covid-19 complication, but his body is yet to be released to his family for burial due to a pending bill of Sh18 million.

According to a report by The Standard, the deceased contracted Covid-19 in March 2021 and passed away on January 8, 2022.

Dr Khasakhala's wife who also contracted the virus at almost the same time as her husband, passed on in the same month (March).

The family of Khasakhala with the help of Nairobi West Hospital where he worked as a doctor managed to raise and settle Sh2.9 million, clearing part of the Sh22 million pending bill.

What the law says about detention of bodies

The chairperson of the Senate Legal Affairs Committee Senator Okong’o Omogeni said hospitals detaining dead bodies over pending bills is illegal and hospitals should comply with the law.

Speaking on KTN, Omogeni challenged the Kenya Medical Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) to ensure hospitals adhere to the law.

Senator Omogeni also argued that there is no value in detaining lifeless bodies and instead hospitals should go after the deceased’s properties and assets after the burial.

“When one dies and they are not able to pay the hospital bill, you achieve nothing by detaining the body. A lifeless body has no value. The best thing to do is to sue the deceased’s estate (property, assets, liabilities and debts belonging to the person when they died) after the burial,” Senator Mogeni stated.

Although public health policies require dead bodies be buried in six months, section 137 of the penal code criminalises hindering the burial of a dead body.

Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) CEO, Daniel Yumbya, asked families whose loved ones are being detained by hospitals to visit their offices for help.

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