Half autopsies carried out are unnecessary, leading pathologist says

AN East End funeral director has welcomed a report which suggests more than half of autopsies carried out are unnecessary – and says its proposals will help grieving Muslims.

Leading pathologist Derrick Pounder’s report says a less invasive examination could be used in 60 per cent of cases, saving money and allowing a quicker burial.

The current system is a particular problem for Muslims because Islam states the dead should be buried as soon as possible.

Gulam Taslim runs Haji Taslim Funerals, which holds about 15 services a week, at Whitechapel’s East London Mosque.

He said: “It’s traumatic when a family has to wait days to bury the body of their loved one. Sometimes we have to bury parts of the body twice as the coroner’s analysis can take up to two weeks. It’s a double whammy for the family.

“This report has showed that most of the post mortems are unnecessary. Logic doesn’t come into it.”

In England, more than a fifth of deaths are referred to the coroner – a number the report argues is too high and too costly.

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Professor Pounder based his recommendations on the Scottish system, which favours less invasive examinations in the majority of cases.

He said there is not enough cash and expertise to make sure autopsies are carried out properly – and also that many are not needed, causing families extra pain.

The professor, whose findings were published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, explained: “We need to be much more thoughtful in selecting which deaths we autopsy.

“We simply do not have the people to perform well such large numbers. The inevitable result is a lowering of autopsy standards and a false sense of security that we have properly investigated the death.”

Other methods, like assessing external injuries and making small incisions to get blood for toxicology reports were suggested.

Families’ rights and freedom of religious practice should be balanced against the need to investigate the death, the expert added.

The Coroners’ Society of England and Wales said there is not currently enough research into whether the recommendations are reliable.

It added it would welcome a reduction in the numbers of autopsies as long as the methods could be shown to be accurate and comply with current rules.