Welcome for new national autopsy code

Bereaved Jewish families have welcomed new coroners rules that will prevent forced invasive autopsies being performed in contravention of Jewish law and against family wishes.

Justice Minister Helen Grant announced that coroners will work under a single national code after the implementation of the new Coroners and Justice Act on July 25. Under the Act, a coroner’s charter, due to be finalised later this year, will mean religious requests for non-invasive post mortems must be considered by coroners wherever possible.

The rules should reduce inconsistent treatment of Jewish families by hospitals and coroners refusing non-surgical MRI or CT scanning as an alternative to surgical autopsies.

The move was welcomed by Brian Gedalla, from north London, who received compensation in 2010 from the Royal Free Hospital over a surgical autopsy the hospital wanted to perform on his mother. Mr Gedalla found himself arguing with hospital staff only hours after his mother died, and was forced to pay £1,000 for an MRI post mortem after a coroner agreed to the procedure.

“The changes are to be welcomed so that at least no coroner and no doctor can ever again say they’ve never heard of post-mortem MRI, because that’s what happened to me. We were totally in the hands of the local coroner as to whether he would accept a non-invasive post mortem,” Mr Gedalla said.

The Board of Deputies, which worked with the Ministry of Justice and Chief Coroner on the new legal framework, welcomed additional measures for swifter release of bodies for burial, but said clarity was still needed from the government over its plans for medical examiners, whose role alongside coroners is yet to be finalised.

The Board’s medical ethics expert Prof David Katz said: “Coroners need to make sure that Jews are able to be buried as soon as they can after death and there should be no unnecessary interference with the body.”

Last updated: 1:45pm, July 12 2013