This bill would allow close family and friends of a deceased person with a religion in conflict to autopsy to request that a court decide if an autopsy is necessary. This would only occur if an agreement cannot be reached between the family and medical examiner. The bill is in response to a case earlier this year in Pierce County.
Under the bill, if law enforcement or public health say an autopsy is needed, there is no requirement that it be stopped. The bill stipulates that “any autopsy that is performed must be done so in the least obtrusive way that will meet the purpose,” according to Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), the prime sponsor of the legislation.
Kline says this bill puts into law what has been common practice among medical examiners.
“This is the balancing of two very closely held interests. One — the interest of religious people to have autopsies done or not done according to their beliefs. The other — the needs of our public health and law enforcement institutions to make sure that in those cases that an autopsy is required, they are done. And this, I believe, we have worked out with the medical examiners and religious authorities and have a balanced approach,” Kline said.
Sen. Joseph Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) also spoke in support of the bill. He said coroners from the state of New York, which have operated under a similar system for years have written a letter of support for the bill.
No one spoke in opposition to the bill and it passed 46 to 2 in the Senate.
Here’s my segment on this legislation from earlier in the session on Legislative Review: