Some body tissue and organs require specialised examination. This varies, depending upon the cause of death. In most cases, small samples of tissue are taken for further analysis. It may also be necessary to retain entire organs for a more detailed examination. This is strictly limited to cases where such retention is necessary to determine or confirm the cause of death.
These organs are retained until the pathologist indicates that all necessary tests have been completed. This may take a few days to several weeks after the initial post-mortem. In a very small number of cases it may take several months.
If an organ or organs are retained the Social Worker in the Coroner’s Office will attempt to contact the next of kin as soon as possible.
Because next of kin are not always easily contactable after a death, a letter will also be posted to your home address.
Retained organs may be returned for burial or cremation at a later date when the tests are complete, if the next of kin so desire. Alternatively, next of kin may choose to delay the funeral until any retained organs can be returned.
Next of kin must notify the State Coroner in writing within three months of the initial post-mortem of their wish for the return of any retained organs. If the State Coroner has not received a communication by the time the organs will be disposed of in a dignified manner.
If the family is advised that organs have been retained, it is important discussing these matters with the funeral director prior to finalising funeral arrangements. The funeral director will make all necessary arrangements for the collection, and burial or cremation of retained organs.