Provide CT Scanning Facilities for Post Mortems, to Prevent Delays in Funerals
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We (Elaine Gordon and Lucy Harrison) are launching this petition in memory of our siblings (Gina Johnson and Peter Price), and for all those families and friends who have been bereaved in a violent way; only to have their heartache and grief intensified through unnecessary and cruel delays in laying their loved ones to rest.
On 29th November 2014, my brother (Peter Price) was killed by a speeding, hit and run driver, while crossing the Hagley Road West in Birmingham. A post mortem was conducted within 48 hours, but because the defendant was given the option to consider a second post mortem, Peter’s funeral could not take place until 15th January 2015. I cannot describe the emotional impact this had on our family and friends. We felt, and still feel, that Peter’s dignity was stripped from him as he was retained in a morgue for several weeks, including over the Christmas period. Our desperate wish to have Peter moved to a chapel of rest, in time for Christmas Day, was ignored due to the request of a second post mortem – we will never fully recover from this.
On 19th December 2014, my sister (Gina Johnson) was killed by a speeding, uninsured driver, while on her way to work. The initial post mortem was conducted quickly, but the defendant requested a second post mortem. We were shocked and horrified by this - as Gina had already had one post mortem, but we were told that this was the defendant’s “right”. The second post mortem was delayed and re-arranged on different dates. I will never forget those dark days and weeks of waiting and wondering when we would have my sister back. It was difficult enough to know that Gina had been killed; the second post mortem and then the delay added further pain, on top of what we were feeling. This was crushing and horrendous. Finally, in February Gina’s body was returned to us and the funeral was held, but the delays and these practices have left a scar on us.
The death of our siblings has bonded us together. We are unable to change what happened to Peter and Gina, but we are determined to try and stop other families being put through the utter heartbreak of a second post-mortem and delayed funeral. A road death is violent, shocking and sudden – it is completely overwhelming for those who are left grieving. Families who find themselves in this situation deserve the utmost support and understanding; but instead our families were left feeling that our loved ones had lost not only their lives, but also their right for their body to be treated with dignity and respect. As a result of these delays, members of our families suffered nightmares, depression, severe anxiety and required specialist counselling and time off work. We are desperate to stop this happening to anyone else. Sadly, we have found that what happened to Gina and Peter is not uncommon – and long delays often occur in giving those killed their right to a funeral, particularly after road traffic incidents.
Together, we began to research post mortem practices and found that in Leicester, second post mortems are hardly ever permitted on road traffic victims, and that all post mortems are conducted by CT scan initially (with only the rarest of cases needing a traditional autopsy). Advances in technology and computerised scanning (CT scans) now mean that post mortems can frequently be carried out without the need to cut open the body. The CT scanner produces digital images that can be viewed and interpreted by various pathologists and specialists, negating the need to open or reopen the body to perform an invasive post mortem. The system that occurs in Leicester has been working effectively and families have not had to endure the despair of waiting and not knowing when their loved one's bodies will be returned for the funeral. Where CT scanning facilities are available, the deceased can be released to families within 48 hours – meaning their dignity can be preserved and their right to a funeral can be carried out without delay.
It is our belief that Birmingham City Council must consider the importance of having a post mortem CT scanner within the city. They must also understand the huge impact that delays can have on the bereaved as they struggle to deal with their loss. If Birmingham had a CT scanner it could be shared with the surrounding areas such as Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire – meaning that this would help many bereaved families across the Midlands. The cost of the CT scanner could be mitigated by a reduction in the amount of time the deceased’s body needs to be kept in the mortuary and the difficulty that can occur in sourcing a forensic pathologist. Furthermore, in cases where there may be criminal proceedings (such as what happened with our siblings) the CT scan and toxicology reports can be shared with the defence and they can then appoint their own experts to interpret the findings; there is absolutely no impact on a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Birmingham is the second city and it seems shocking that we do not have access to the same technology readily available in regions such as Lancashire, Sheffield and Leicester. We understand that there are those who will say that money should be spent on the living and not the dead - but a scanner would help those who are grieving in the most horrific of circumstances, and so it is very much to the benefit of the living. At a time when mental health and wellbeing are being highlighted, we strongly believe that the mental health and wellbeing of the bereaved should be seriously considered. A CT scanner for Birmingham would mean that a greater standard in post mortem care could be provided. In addition, where appropriate a CT post mortem scan could be performed for those who are not comfortable with the practice of an invasive post mortem, perhaps due to religious beliefs.
We are therefore asking for your support in petitioning Birmingham City Council to provide a CT scanner for post mortems.
The charity RoadPeace (www.roadpeace.org) are supporting us in our campaign to change post mortem practices and to prevent more families going through this additional and unnecessary pain and suffering.
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