The Ohio Supreme Court recently heard an interesting case. Who retains the right to a dead body? Christopher Albrecht’s parents think they should have all of him, but they don’t. He drowned in 2001 when his car overturned in a creek. As part of the autopsy, his brain was removed for examination. As part of that procedure, the brain is “fixed” in a solution of salt and formaldehyde to harden the tissue; this makes it easier to dissect. The procedure takes up to 2 weeks, meaning the autopsy isn’t completed for 2-3 weeks.
Ohio coroners are required to perform autopsies in certain situations.
The Albrechts think they should have been given his brain when the coroner was done with it; policy at the time classified it as medical waste, and it was incinerated. That’s part of state law now, but this case took place in 2001.
Does any person really think they get everything back after an autopsy? Putting aside the whole fluid issue, people should realize that tissue samples are taken for evidence if there’s any chance of a criminal case. Should that tissue be returned? When?
I’m sorry for their loss, but I think this suit is misguided. The coroner’s office probably should have made it clear they weren’t getting everything back, but I think it’s reasonable for the coroner to retain some tissue.