NGO KHAIS gives unclaimed bodies a proper ‘send-off’

KHAIS chairman Dhatchinamoorthy performing a simple prayer before the cremation of an unclaimed body.
KHAIS chairman Dhatchinamoorthy performing a simple prayer before the cremation of an unclaimed body.

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KLANG, Aug 7 ― Ever wonder what happens to unclaimed bodies at the morgue? Probably not.

After all, most of us don’t think about death until it happens to somebody we love or know.

So it comes as quite a surprise to find out there is a group of people out there whose sole purpose is to “look after the welfare of the dead.”

To ease “congestion” at the morgues in government hospitals ― apparently each hospital can only accommodate 10 corpses at any given time ― but more importantly to give the dead a proper burial, a non-governmental organisation known as Persatuan Kebajikan Khairat Pengebumian Kaum India Selangor (KHAIS) was established last year.

Not only does this group give unclaimed corpses and body parts a proper burial, KHAIS also offers up a simple prayer ceremony at the funeral.

“We do not discriminate against anyone as we view everyone, in this sense dead people, as the same each time we receive a call from the hospital informing us of an unclaimed body,” KHAIS' chairman D. Dhatchinamoorthy told Malay Mail Online.

According to the 53-year-old lorry driver, bodies are not claimed because of various reasons. He cited shame, conflict between family members and inability of the next of kin to do the necessary as some of the reasons.

Dhatchinamoorthy said some were foreigners and accident victims whose bodies could not be identified because they were no longer intact.

“For foreigners, we will have to work closely with the embassy and police before we do the necessary,” he said.

For Dhatchinamoorthy and his team of about 20 people, giving these unclaimed bodies a proper burial is meaningful and gives them great satisfaction.

“Yes, people might wonder why we do this as it is not the conventional do-good kind of effort. But if you think about it, it is the same as helping out at the orphanage, old folks’ home or just anyone in need.

“The dead needs to be taken care of as well,” he said.

Following the formation of KHAIS last July, the group has handled about 20 cases, involving burial and cremation of non-Muslim bodies and body parts.

Dhatchinamoorthy and KHAIS members at a cemetery.
Dhatchinamoorthy and KHAIS members at a cemetery.

Dhatchinamoorthy said it costs between RM2,000 and RM3,000 to perform a burial or cremation and added that almost every month his group would receive a call of an unclaimed body at a morgue from government hospitals in the state.

“Our job is basically to sort out all the necessary documentation with the hospital and execute the job. We have to pay undertakers to dig the grave and bathe the bodies.

“It is not an easy task for us and especially for the undertaker to bathe corpses that have been kept in the freezer for almost a year but we do this because it is a noble cause,” he said.

According to the MyHealth portal under the Health Ministry, a corpse that is left unclaimed for three days at a morgue will be classified as “unclaimed.”

It stated that the bodies will then be sent to the relevant religious department or welfare organisations for burial.

“We feel a great sense of satisfaction giving these corpses or even body parts a proper burial but we are faced with financial and manpower constraints,” Dhatchinamoorthy said.

He added that KHAIS relied on public donations to fund its efforts and that it would be easier to go about if there were more members in the group.

Dhatchinamoorty said he and his members have applied for funds from the state and federal government but are still waiting for feedback.

“I hope we get some form of assistance from the government so we can continue to do what we do,” he said.

More information is available on KHAIS' Facebook page at Khairat Pengebumian India Selangor.

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