Two districts in England are now home to new technologies in medical science with connections to Malaysia.
Sheffield and Bradford are now home to iGene Sdn Bhd’s first and second digital autopsy facilities (DAF).
Mathavan A. Chandran, CEO of the Infovalley Group of Companies, the parent company of iGene, said the company did a nationwide tour to survey the medicolegal landscape before bringing their technologies to England.
“We built relationships and an engagement model and worked on it with England’s government agencies for trade and investment. The entire approach was merit based,” he told Metrobiz during the launch of the Bradford DAF in the Public and Forensic Mortuary in Bradfordrecently.
The £2mil (RM10.9mil) state-of-the-art autopsy centre is part of the £50mil network of 18 facilities being created in England.
Launched by Bradford Council deputy leader Councillor Imran Hussain, he said: “I’m very proud that Bradford will be one of the first places in the country to have these digital scanning facilities. It will be welcome news for all bereaved families.”
Approximately 550,000 deaths are recorded in England and Wales each year where more than 200,000 cases are classified as requiring medical examination.
The coroner will decide whether it is appropriate to use the DAF and if the family of the deceased decides to go ahead, the digital autopsy will cost £500.
However, if the coroner orders a digital autopsy because a crime is suspected, then there will be no cost to the family.
The first centre, which was launched in the Sheffield Medico-Legal Centre late last November is scheduled to begin its commercial services effective July 1.
The facility, which uses a CT scanner with the iGene’s software is expected to improve the way post-mortems are conducted, without the need for dissection.
iGene London Ltd medical science head Dr Alan Fletcher said the software is user-friendly and assists the pathologist in determining the cause of death.
“Establishing the truth and being as accurate as possible about death certification is very important to me. I believe this is the unique opportunity to assist bereaved relatives at a difficult time and listening to their concerns and questions from an independent perspective is very rewarding,” he said.
The process, involves scanning a body with a CT scanner and using the software to create a 3D reconstruction of a body on a computer monitor.
Taking as little 12 minutes, the image is saved to a secure file and ready to the pathologist to examine.
The pathologist can use a virtual scalpel to rotate the image and examine layers of the body from the skin down to the skeleton as well as look inside the organs.
Fletcher, who is the first Medical Examiner (of documents and causes of death) in England and Wales has reviewed over 12,000 deaths.
“The information, combined with additional external examination and other information that preceded death will be sufficient to establish the cause of death without full invasive classical autopsy. In some cases, the additional information will enable a targeted limited autopsy but there will still be some cases where a full invasive autopsy is needed when uncertainty remains,” he said.
In certain cases, additional tests and full autopsies will still be needed. Examples of these include pulmonary embolism and cases where toxins are suspected.
“Nevertheless, as we move forward, we are gaining more and more experience, data and confidence in digital autopsies and with inevitable future technological improvements, I believe more and more cases will be determined with this technique,” he said.
Apart from that, Fletcher who is also consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said there is potential to use the digital autopsy system as an educational platform to train future medical professionals.
Senior radiographer Claire Walker said, in their day-to-day work, there are proper safeguards in place to protect the safety of the staff and the public.
“We have to be very sure that we are scanning the right body and that the family, or coroner on behalf of the family have consented to the scan. We also have to ensure the confidentiality and security of the data we acquire and we have a very secure and robust system in place,” she said.
iGene is one of the recipients of investment from Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) . Mavcap’s CEO Jamaludin Bujang said, having invested RM7.5mil in iGene for a 15% stake, the government venture capital agency continues to monitor the mechanisms of how the resources are used and look into the company’s governance and how they approach potential clients.
“It also gives added confidence to potential clients that the Malaysian government has a stake in the technology,” Jamaludin said.