Family Not Entitled to Post-Autopsy Brain

As I’ve occasionally mentioned, I adhere to the “gut doctrine” of law:  if a ruling feels wrong in my gut, it must be wrong. And so the gut doctrine tells me that there’s something very wrong with a decision out of Michigan.  Jeff Gorman of Courthouse News reports:

Family members do not have the right to the brain of their deceased kin after an autopsy, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled.

The justices were asked by a federal judge to answer the following certified question about a class action against Oakland County and its medical examiner:

“Assuming that a decedent’s brain has been removed by a medical examiner to conduct a lawful investigation into the decedent’s cause of death, do the decedent’s next-of-kin have a right under Michigan law to possess the brain in order to properly bury or cremate the same after the brain is no longer needed for forensic examination?”

In a per-curiam decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that state law does not give the family the right to the brain.

The entire decision is posted here.

This approach is not unique to Michigan. As I reported here a few weeks ago, there was a similar concern in New York City.

Why can’t the law allow some humanity and routinely ask next of kin if they would like to be notified when the autopsy is completed so that they can pick up any other remains they might wish to bury or cremate? Not everyone would want the option, but for some, the thought of brain or body parts just being disposed of without religious ceremony or other ritual may be painful.

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