Ontario Inviting Families To Inquire About Organ Retention
Affects coroner-warranted autopsies performed before June 14, 2010
Ontario's Chief Forensic Pathologist and Chief Coroner are reaching out to those who lost a family member in Ontario before June 14, 2010, resulting in a coroner's investigation and autopsy.
For decades, retaining organs as part of an autopsy was standard practice, and information shared with bereaved families was sometimes limited in an attempt to spare them further grief. As a result, there are some families who may not have been notified that an organ was retained for testing to help determine the cause of death. Now, under Regulation 180 of the Coroners Act, families are routinely notified when an organ is retained and their wishes regarding final disposition of the organ are sought wherever possible. Immediate family members and personal representatives (i.e. those responsible for administering an estate) are invited to contact the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and the Office of the Chief Coroner at 1-855-564-4122 or send an email to OrganRetention@ontario.ca to find out if an organ was retained in their case. Affected families and personal representatives may request that the organ be sent to a funeral home for cremation or burial, at the expense of the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and the Office of the Chief Coroner. On June 14, 2013, remaining organs retained before June 10, 2010, will be respectfully disposed of in accordance with Regulation 180 made under the Coroners Act. Ontario's Chief Forensic Pathologist and Chief Coroner are committed to helping families get the answers they need.
- This announcement only pertains to autopsies that were ordered by a coroner as part of a thorough death investigation before June 14, 2010, and does not include routine hospital autopsies.
- Coroners investigate approximately 17,000 deaths in Ontario each year - approximately 6,000 of those investigations require an autopsy.
- The Coroners Act gives coroners the authority to order that an autopsy be conducted as part of a death investigation. Death investigations not only allow us to answer questions about the circumstances of the individual's death; they can also help to prevent similar deaths from occurring.
- Since June 14, 2010, all coroners and pathologists must obtain permission from the Chief Forensic Pathologist or designate to retain an organ for further examination.
“Times have changed, and so has our approach to communicating with bereaved families. When an organ must be retained, we now discuss it openly. While today's announcement is difficult for some to hear, we believe that sharing information about this historical issue is the right thing to do.”
Dr. Michael Pollanen
“Our approach must respect bereaved families who wish to have this information, while preventing distress to others who prefer not to know. We are moving forward in a manner that balances the need for transparency with the potential distress disclosure may cause affected families.”
Dr. Andrew McCallum