“The autopsies should be avoided,” Robert Koch Institut (RKI) said on his website in early April. The German Institute, which is responsible for studying infectious diseases, later changed its mind. Lars Zaade, vice president of the institute, said it was a good idea, especially if the disease was new, to have as many necropsies as possible – under the right security conditions.
In all modern infectious diseases, necropsy is a very important means of determining the course of the disease, including COVID-19, says Karl Friedrich Biring, president of the Federal Association of German Pathologists.
The largest database in Hamburg
However, not all physicians followed the original recommendations of the Robert Koch Institut. Klaus Pissel, director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Hamburg, currently has the largest database. “We can learn a lot from the dead about the living,” says Pisel.
Between March 22 and April 11, they studied 65 deaths from coronavirus. Of these, 46 already had lung disease, 28 had disease of other organs or had undergone transplantation. Ten were diabetic and obese, ten had cancer and 16 suffered from dementia. Some of these conditions coexisted. Pissel’s database now contains information extracted from more than 100 autopsies. And they all confirm: none of the dead were affected exclusively by the coronavirus, but they already had cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung or kidney failure or liver cirrhosis.
However, according to Pissel, the corona should not be underestimated. However, he is of the opinion that the fear of the virus is excessive and that it is not a “particularly dangerous viral disease”. He therefore considers certain restrictions to be unfounded, such as those that apply to relatives at the funerals of the deceased. “Hugging should be avoided, but eye contact with the dead is not dangerous. Even the touch is not dangerous, as long as you obviously wash your hands well afterwards, “says the doctor.
Research in Italy and Switzerland
Pissel’s data confirms almost a literal study by the Italian Ministry of Health, which is not based on necropsies, but on the course of the disease in 1,738 dead COVID-19 patients. In addition to the virus, 96.4% of them have at least one other illness. In particular, the most common diseases were high blood pressure (70%), diabetes (32%) and cardiovascular disease (28%). The average age of those killed in Italy so far is 79 years and in Hamburg 80 years.
All 20 COVID-19 dead patients examined by Alexander Jankov, head of autopsy at the University Hospital of Basel, also had high blood pressure. In addition, most of them were overweight. Two-thirds of the dead had heart problems and one-third had diabetes. However, the physician would not describe the disease as harmless: “All of these patients would probably have lived longer without COVID-19 – maybe an hour, maybe a day, a week or a year.”
Great risk group in Germany
The head physician at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, Horst von Benrut, also confirmed that all the dead examined had a history of illness, mainly of the cardiovascular system or lungs. “It simply came to our notice then. However, this is common in people over the age of 65 in Germany. It specifically concerns every third person. We note that the high-risk group is very large, “he explained in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung.
And what is his position in the debate over whether people died “from” or “with” a coronation? “It simply came to our notice then. In cases where we did an autopsy, people died of coronavirus. All the dead already had serious illnesses, but not to the point that they were seriously threatening their lives, “he said. According to him, under no circumstances should the impression be made that the corona is harmless – without it these people would not have died.