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Objecting to an autopsy

Except where the Coroner decides that a post mortem examination must be held immediately, the senior next of kin may object to the holding of a post mortem examination.

The senior next of kin is :

The senior next of kin is the first person who is available from the following persons listed in the order of priority -

  • a person who, immediately before the death, was living with the person and was either -

    (i) legally married to the person; or
    (ii) of or over the age of 18 years and in a marriage-like relationship (whether the persons are different sexes or the same sex) with the person;

  • a person who, immediately before the death, was legally married to the person;
  • a son or daughter, who is of or over the age of 18 years, of the person;
  • a parent of the person;
  • a brother or sister, who is of or over the age of 18 years, of the person;
  • an executor named in the will of the person or a person who, immediately before the death, was a personal representative of the person; or
  • any person nominated by the person to be contacted in an emergency.

As there are good reasons for holding post mortem examinations as soon as possible, any objection should be lodged by the next of kin within 24 hours of receiving a 'When a person dies suddenly' brochure.

An objection received after 24 hours will be acted upon if possible, but after that period the post mortem examination may have already commenced.

To make an objection, telephone the Office of the State Coroner on (08) 9425 2900 during office hours or the Police Service's Coronial Investigation Unit after hours on (08) 9420 5200.

It is important before deciding to object to a post mortem examination to consider whether there are any concerns about the circumstances of the death, as if a post mortem examination is not held, important information may be lost.

If you wish to object to a post mortem examination do not set a date for the funeral, as the objection process may take some time.

If you do object to an autopsy (post mortem) you will usually be contacted by the Coronial Counsellors who will discuss issues relating to the objections.

In a number of cases the Coroner, after considering the other evidence which could assist in determining possible causes of the death, will accept the objection and no autopsy will be held. In other cases, where the Coroner has decided that there are important reasons for holding an autopsy, a letter will be sent to you briefly explaining those reasons.

If you still wish to object to the autopsy you can apply to the Supreme Court for an order preventing it. You should advise the Coroners office of your intentions. You must apply within 2 clear working days of being notified that your objection has not been accepted, or before the end of any extension of time granted by the Supreme Court. You should seek legal advice and assistance if you plan to make a Supreme Court application

Last updated: 15-Jan-2014

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