Unless otherwise specified by the decedent, the next of kin has full legal right to authorize or refuse consent for the postmortem examination procedure. The person who has the legal right to authorize postmortem examination also has the right to state the limits within which it shall be performed and the postmortem examination must be performed within those limits. The person obtaining permission for the postmortem examination should provide a full explanation as to what will be done.
The following order of authority to give consent must be observed when obtaining signed authorization for the postmortem examination:
• Legally designated and court-appointed Power of Attorney, if none, then
• Surviving spouse or domestic partner; if spouse/domestic partner is deceased or incompetent, then
• Adult children; if none, then
• Parents; if none, then
• Brothers or sisters; if none, then
• Adult grandchildren; if none, then
• Grandparents; if none, then
• Nephews or nieces; if none, then
• Uncles or aunts; if none, then
• Cousins; if none, then
• Stepchildren; if none, then
• Relatives or next of kin of previously deceased spouse; if none, then
• Any other relative or friend who assumes custody of the body for burial.
NOTE: If two or more persons who are entitled to authorize the postmortem examination assume responsibility for the burial, the written authorization of one is sufficient. ISDP Consulting LLC or its designees explicitly do not recommend proceeding with a postmortem examination when there is known opposition by one next of kin of the same class as the one signing the postmortem examination consent form.
If there is more than one person of the same relation entitled to give consent to a postmortem examination or autopsy, consent may be given by a member of the same relationship unless another person of the same relationship files an objection with the physician, medical examiner, justice of the peace, or county judge. If an objection is filed, the consent may be given only by a majority of the persons of the same relationship of the class who are reasonably available. An example of this would be multiple surviving adult children.