Are surgeons qualified to perform autopsies

Qualified inquest initiative

SAARBRÜCKEN. The discussions about the inquest in Saarland are reminiscent of a never-ending story.

Neither the medical profession nor the Ministry of Health were really satisfied with the situation so far. But now there seems to be movement in the messy situation: State Secretary Stephan Kolling from the Ministry of Health has announced several initiatives.

Compulsory training and better pay, professional coroners, compulsory sections, national mortality register - the CDU politician wants to examine a wide range of suggestions for improvement.

Understanding of doctors' problems

Kolling said there was an urgent need for a permanent solution to improve the quality of the inquest. A lack of routine, but also a lack of time, often led to uncertainties and reduced quality among doctors.

At the same time, Kolling shows understanding for the problems faced by the doctors, who are all obliged to examine the corpses according to the Saarland Funeral Act.

Correct implementation takes 30 to 60 minutes. The doctors often do not have this time, admits Kolling. Forms as long as pages, the obligation to undress the corpse, the compulsory request to the relatives to leave the room - it is not surprising, then, if only a "light examination" is carried out from time to time.

The State Secretary is taking up complaints that were massively expressed ten years ago at a training event organized by the Saarland Medical Association.

In 2008 there was a heated dispute: The General Practitioner Association felt defamed by comments made by then Minister of Health Josef Hecken about the poor quality of the post-mortem examinations and called for the introduction of a state corpse.

Kolling, who was Hoden's office manager at the time, is now picking up on this discussion again. The Health Ministers' Conference had already discussed possibilities for improvement in 2010, but so far there has been no visible progress.

Consideration of amendment to the Funeral Act

In the Saarland, when the Funeral Act is amended, the mandatory regular training and further education of doctors is to be stipulated.

According to Kolling's words, however, one also has to think about a federal corpse inspection law in order to enforce standardized standards. He also advocates an increase in medical remuneration.

Another solution could be the introduction of a "coroner", a professional coroner. Forensic medicine institutes in Saarland could take on this task. In certain situations, Kolling also considers a mandatory section to be useful.

He sees an additional benefit of the medical examination in the compilation of valid cause of death statistics and the establishment of a national mortality register.

So far only Bremen has such a mortality index to enable epidemiological studies. Kolling announced that it would also examine the introduction of a cause of death register in the Saarland cancer register. He would like to exchange ideas with the medical association and forensic doctors about this soon.