Obesity problems haunt mortuaries

August 17, 2007

Australian pathologists have warned that increases in obesity may mean that mortuaries have to be redesigned to accommodate larger bodies.

A study by pathologists at Adelaide University of the body mass of corpses used in coronial autopsies found 33 per cent of the 255 adults surveyed were obese and 6 per cent were morbidly obese, against 17 per cent and 3 per cent respectively in a 1986 study.

In a letter to an Australian medical journal, study author Roger Byard warns that specially deigned mortuaries with more robust equipment would be needed if the trend continued in order to deal with the logistical problems of storing larger bodies, the health and safety issues for staff of lifting greater weights and the more rapid decomposition of morbidly obese bodies. "Failure to provide these may compromise the postmortem evaluation of markedly obese individuals, in addition to potentially jeopardising the health of mortuary staff," he says.

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