An announcement by the British Minister of Justice to review the availability of “out of hours” service by country’s coroners was gratefully welcomed by activists in UK’s Jewish community. Over the past year, the burials of several individuals have been delayed for days due to the inaccessibility of the office that deals with mortuary issues, out of regular business hours.
The minister, Caroline Dinenage said in a statement released Wednesday that the government planned to investigate the matter and to “make sure they [coroners] are sensitive to the needs of the whole community, including those whose beliefs require burials to take place quickly.”
The impending policy move comes a few short weeks after a meeting was held with representatives from the Jewish and Muslim communities with Mrs. Dinenage and Justice Secretary, Michael Grove to discuss adjusting policies of the country’s coroners [the UK equivalent of the medical examiner] to better facilitate the needs of faith groups.
In the vast majority of cases, coroners have been exceedingly accommodating to religious beliefs and made themselves available for emergency cases whenever they occurred. The recent advocacy is a result a series of standoffs between the Jewish and Muslim communities and Mary Hassel, the coroner for Inner Northern London. The office under her jurisdiction has repeatedly refused to deal with issues after business hours or over weekends and has also resisted requests from families for less intrusive means of autopsy.
Trevor Asserson, an attorney who has been representing the community’s claims in this matter, said that in the event of a petirah whatever postmortem work is necessary and the formalities of release can be resolved in “a fifteen-minute phone call, but if that call does not take place, someone who died on Friday may not get buried until the next Tuesday.”
According to Asserson, the announcement from the minister will most likely result in legislation mandating coroners to devise protocols to enable response to requests dealing with autopsy of release of bodies at all times.
“I think it’s impressive that on relatively short notice and with a written request two very high ranking ministers agreed to meet with representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities and that very soon after that they took action,” he told Hamodia. “It’s a story that government works and of the importance of faith issues to the government.”
A judicial review to examine the coroner’s responsibility to accommodate requests for scans and the like in place of traditional autopsies is scheduled for July 28.