Families Given More Time to Inquire About Past Autopsies
Regulatory Amendment Extends Storage for Historically Retained Organs
The Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and the Office of the Chief Coroner are giving families more time to inquire about organs retained after coroner-ordered autopsies.
Starting last summer, families were given one year to inquire about family members who had undergone coroners' investigations and autopsies before June 14, 2010. In these cases, it is possible that an organ was retained and is now in storage at a hospital or forensic pathology unit.
Since public notification began in June 2012, it has become clear that people need more time to decide whether they wish to request information about autopsies. A recent regulatory amendment to the Coroners Act allows these organs to be kept for a minimum of five more years, unless the family provides disposition instructions.
Before 2010, organs were often retained for further testing after an autopsy to determine the cause of death or, in some cases, to help determine whether the deceased person's family members were at risk. At the time, information shared with families was sometimes limited to spare them further grief. As a result, some families were not notified that an organ was retained.
The policies and regulations of the death investigation system have evolved. Since June 14, 2010, Regulation 180 of the Coroners Act has ensured that families are notified when an organ is retained, and that they have an opportunity to express their wishes regarding disposition.
- 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.
- If an organ was retained and remains in storage, the family or personal representative 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.
“Whether or not people want to learn about their loved one’s case is a personal decision.By extending the retention period, we hope to ensure everyone is afforded the time they need to consider this sensitive matter.”
Dr. Michael Pollanen
“We are committed to providing answers to those who contact us and to carrying out their wishes wherever possible.”
Dr. Dan Cass