Landmark ruling ensures coroners must send bodies for scans rather than autopsies if religion demands
Two Bradford fathers, who each suffered the tragic loss of their children just over five years ago, were celebrating last month after a landmark High Court ruling.
On Tuesday 28th July, new legislation was put into place in the UK which ensures coroners must send bodies for scans or blood tests rather than carry out invasive autopsies if the deceased’s religion demands the corpse must stay intact.
Viewed as a huge victory for the rights of Jews and Muslims, whose faiths dictate bodies must not be ‘desecrated’ with the removal of organs whenever possible, the news was warmly welcomed by campaigners.
Ramzan Mohayuddin, from Heckmondwike, has been campaigning for a change in the law since his 18-year-old son, Saad, passed away on Christmas Day 2008.
As a Muslim, he wanted his son’s body to remain intact and so worked with the Jewish community and the Bolton Council of Mosques to ensure Saad’s body was sent for an MRI scan in Manchester.
Paying for the scan himself, results came back with no cause of death and so the coroner ordered for the invasive post mortem to be carried out.
Once again, nothing was found and Saad’s death was put down to natural causes.
Upset at the distress of seeing his son’s corpse undergo the ‘barbaric act of an intrusive post mortem’, Mr Mohayuddin established the Saad Foundation, along with his family and local community, which works on promoting imaging as a less intrusive means of determining a cause of death.
Speaking after the High Court ruling last week, he said the law change had been a long time coming.
“75 to 80 per cent of the time, imaging will establish a cause of death,” he said. “This ruling is exactly what families like ours have been waiting for and gives a real nudge of reality to coroners that there has to be alternatives to post mortems.
“Families now have the choice following the death of their relatives, with CT scanning favourable for Muslims and Jews.
“On the balance of probability, the cause of death will likely be determined after a scan.”
In Bradford, the city’s Digital Autopsy facility, launched last year, now provides families with a choice of a non-invasive technique that ‘swaps a scalpel for a scanner’.
Created by Malaysian firm, iGene, the imaging process is one of many new sites recently established across the UK.
Mohammed Ilyas is another father from Bradford who lost his three-month-old son five years ago due to an enlarged heart.
He hailed last month’s High Court ruling as a ‘historic victory’ which would help many families.
“As a Muslim, we are taught that as the body comes into the world, it has to go back the same way,” he explained.
“Obviously there are times that scanning is not possible and a post-mortem is needed but the fact we now have the legal right to opt for imaging is fantastic news.
“Now people must be made aware that there are facilities out there which can be used as an alternative to intrusive post mortems.”
The non-invasive scans are now available as an alternative to the post-mortems yet must be funded on behalf of the deceased.