A Jewish family has won permission for a judicial review, in what will be an historic first trial to determine whether Jews and others have the right to a post-mortem scan instead of a full autopsy.
The High Court judge’s ruling concerned a Jewish woman from London, Mrs R, on whose body an invasive post-mortem was ordered by Senior Coroner Mary Hassell in September 2014.
Hassell’s decision was made against the wishes of the family, which had offered to pay for a scan first, in order to determine cause of death in a way that would not involve cutting up the body, in breach of Jewish law.
In a case supported by the Board of Deputies, solicitors obtained an injunction barring Hassell from ordering an autopsy unless a scan was tried first. When a scan was subsequently carried out, it established the cause of death, rendering the post-mortem unnecessary.
“Ms Hassell’s conduct is unusual,” said Trevor Asserson of Asserson Law Offices. “Most coroners are sensitive to the religious needs of Jews and Muslims. Ms Hassell appears to show little regard to these requirements.”
This case presents an opportunity for the English courts to clarify the position regarding the right to a post-mortem scan in place of a full autopsy.
Asserson said: “Given that two judges have already decided that a scan should normally be permitted where required for religious reasons, there is every chance that the court will establish this in law in the final hearing, for the general benefit of the Jewish and Muslim communities in the UK.