Births, marriages, deaths and nationality When death occurs

Tissue and Organ retention

A Pathologist has a duty in law to take samples from the Deceased if they believe that it will help them determine the cause of death and this is much like having a biopsy in life.  The samples are tiny, (about the size and thickness of a little fingernail) and the Pathologist will look at them under a microscope to obtain further information about the cause of death.

Small samples (a few millilitres) of blood and/or urine may also be taken if the there is a need to check levels of drugs, medicines or certain natural body chemicals.

The testing process can take quite a while depending on what type of analysis needs to be done so this means that it is not usually possible to reunite the samples with the Deceased before a funeral.


The Human Tissue Act 2006 sets down strict regulations for how we must treat the samples and when we are giving you any results, we will inform you if samples have been taken.  You then have a choice of three options for how they will be handled and whilst you don't need to decide this straight away we do need a decision from you before we are able to release the Deceased for the funeral.  The options are:

A.  Samples are kept at the hospital by the Pathologist for medical research and teaching but when they are no longer needed, they will be disposed of in a lawful and sensitive matter.

B.  Samples are returned to the family via their funeral director

C.  Samples are disposed of at the hospital in a lawful and sensitive manner.  (This is usually by cremation.)


Very rarely, there will be a need to take a whole organ for further analysis but if this is required then one of the Police Coroner's Officers will meet with you face to face and explain what will happen and why and discuss the three options available. 

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