Digital autopsy centre and FAQ’s
IMWS Burial Committee visited the new state-of-the-art 3D digital autopsy facility situated next to the mortuary centre in Bradford. iGene, part of the InfoValley group who specialize in the development of Advanced Medical Visualisation Technology, has opened the new centre which will allow bereaved families and alternative to intrusive post-mortems.
The Digital autopsy is carried out through a body CT scanner. Data is then processed by the unique computer software to create a 3D reconstruction of the body which is then examined by radiologists and pathologists.
The method of using a computer mouse instead of a scalpel to examine the body layer by layer and establish all possible outcomes means families of a loved one can be spared the pain of an intrusive post-mortem.
Even if the results are inconclusive, the data collated through scanning can generally point to the most likely area of the body which needs checking and assessing. If an invasive procedure is carried out the data from the CT scan can help to limit the autopsy, eliminating the need for a full post-mortem which is horrendous and gruesome.
Though there may be occasions when iGene will need to make a very small cut in the body and introduce a small amount of liquid into the coronary arteries of the heart, it is a procedure that is routinely undertaken in the living to diagnose coronary artery disease. iGene will inform the family if this is going to take place.
Mohammed Laher, IMWS burial committee, said “the facility in Bradford is first class and new technology in the autopsy is a great leap. But people must be aware that it is not 100% conclusive and there is the element of fee involved for the family’
iGene operate their facility in Bradford Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5:00pm.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the death of a person referred to the Coroner?
If there is a sudden and unexpected death and the cause of death cannot be determined, then the coroner would be informed. All the medical records of the deceased would be sought and checked to establish the cause of death. If the Coroner is still unsure about the cause of death then the pathologist in conjunction with the radiologist would inspect the external parts of the body for any possible reasons. Of course, in cases of murder, accidents or suspicious deaths, a post-mortem will need to be carried out.
When is the CT scanning done?
Not all causes of death can be seen on a CT scan, the coroner’s Officer will give iGene the details surrounding the death including clinical information and iGene’s radiologists will decide whether a case is suitable for digital autopsy. If the case is not suitable for digital autopsy, it will not be offered to the family.
Who liaises with the family throughout the process?
Generally, the Coroner’s Officer who works for the main Coroner would liaise with the family. If the Coroner in consultation with the pathologist and the radiologist deems that post-mortem imaging can determine the cause of death then this opportunity will be offered to the family. The Coroner’s Officer would then obtain permission from the family for scanning to be carried out. Subsequently, if the family agrees, consent to scan form will need to be signed by the next of kin. The fee for a digital autopsy will be collected by iGene. Payment can be made by debit/credit card or by BACS transfer over the telephone. Payment can also be made in cash at the facility, although this is not encouraged.
Is there a cost for carrying out the digital autopsy?
There will be a charge for the cost of a digital autopsy, currently it is £500 + VAT. This payment will have to be made before the scanning is undertaken.
Will there be a delay in the body being discharged for the funeral to be undertaken?
The scan itself will take about half an hour. If the body is held at the Bradford mortuary it can be scanned immediately. However, if the body is held at another mortuary then it will need to be transported to the facility by a funeral director. The body should be in a body bag. Transport is the responsibility of the next of kin. When the scan is complete the body will be returned to the mortuary of origin. If the mortuary of origin is closed (after 4pm) then the body will be stored at Bradford. The scan will then be reported by one of iGene’s radiologists. There is no specified time limit for this. However, iGene will always endeavour to provide a report back to the Coroner’s Officer on the same day as the scan. If the body is scanned late afternoon after the Coroner’s Officers have left for the day, the report will be sent through so it is available for 8am the next day. It is important to note that in some cases digital autopsy can in fact delay release and family expectation needs to be managed. Islamically, the necessity to avert an invasive post-mortem will supersede and override the early release requirement. Thus, there may be possible delays in the process; however, over time, the hope is that the practice will be speeded up as it develops.
What if the results are inconclusive?
If a probable cause of death cannot be established from the scan and a FULLY invasive post-mortem is required then iGene will reimburse the cost of the digital autopsy to the family. However, one note of caution is that if the information from the scan helps the pathologist and reduces the invasive post-mortem the £500 + VAT is still payable.
Is this facility available for all faiths and non-faith communities?
Yes, any family that lost a loved one and is offered the opportunity by the Coroner to carry out the scanning then it will be accessible to them.
Can a Muslim Funeral Service liaise with the Coroner’s Officer on behalf of the family?
Yes, as long as the next of kin has given consent. However, the decision about the scanning will remain solely with the family.