The body of Dr Simon Hercules, who succumbed to COVID-19 in April 2020, was hurriedly buried following outrage among residents over fears of contracting the disease from a dead body.

Dr Simon Hercules
news COVID-19 Monday, July 26, 2021 - 17:24

Dr Simon Hercules, a well-known neurosurgeon and Managing Director at New Hope Hospital in Chennai, succumbed to COVID-19 in April 2020. His body was hurriedly buried in an Anna Nagar cemetery following outrage among residents over fears of contracting the disease from a dead body. After a year-long fight by his wife, Anandhi Simon, Dr Simon got a dignified burial on Sunday, July 25, 2021, in the Kilpauk cemetery. The body of the late Dr Simon Hercules was exhumed from Anna Nagar’s Velangadu cemetery and interred at Kilpauk cemetery following a Madras High Court order in March this year. Anandhi Simon had moved the High Court, asking that her husband be buried with dignity in Kilpauk.

On April 19, 2020, Dr Simon’s family took his body to the TB Chatram burial ground in Kilpauk. However, fueled by misinformation that bodies of COVID-19 patients can transit the virus, a large crowd of residents in the area prevented his family from burying the body in Kilpauk. The family was forced to divert the ambulance carrying his body to Velangadu, only to be met with another angry crowd that had gathered to stop the burial. There, the crowd turned violent, attacking Dr Simon’s wife, his colleagues in the medical community and even the ambulance drivers and sanitation inspectors, giving them little choice but to flee.

Dr Pradeep, a close friend of Dr Samuel, had narrated that he and the ambulance staff, at great personal risk, managed to get the body back into the ambulance and drove off. Later, the same night, following appeals to the Health Ministry, Dr Pradeep and several hospital staff were provided police protection to conduct a hurried burial at Velangadu in Anna Nagar.

These unfortunate events transpired created great distress among the medical community as Dr Simon was known to have treated all his patients just before he contracted the disease. Dr Bhagyaraj, a microbiologist and friend of Dr Simon, who had been present at both burial grounds, later released an emotional video, asking if this was the kind of gratitude that would be shown to doctors who die of COVID-19.

Read: How Dr Simon, who died of COVID-19 in Chennai, was denied dignity in death

Last year, Anandhi Simon had submitted a plea to the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palniswami for permission to shift her husband’s body to the Kilpauk cemetery, but the Chennai Corporation denied permission, citing COVID-19 safety measures. In response, Anandhi had approached the Madras High Court to overturn the order. In March 2021, the Madras High Court directed the Chennai Corporation to exhume Dr Samuel’s body and bury it at Kilpauk while maintaining all COVID-19 safety protocols.

The Chennai Corporation, in compliance with the verdict, shifted his body to Kilpauk on the morning of Jul 25, 2021under the supervision of sanitation inspectors. The burial was overseen by a government-employed medical officer and police protection was provided from Velangadu to Kilpauk cemetery.

Speaking to The News Minute, Dr Pradeep said that he is happy for Dr Simon’s family. “They had hoped for this for a long time. They wanted to bury Dr Simon’s body according to their religious beliefs in a Christian cemetery. They fought for that and made it happen,” he said. The funeral was attended by Anandhi Simon, their daughter, son and Dr Pradeep, among others.

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