In Practice

What should private-sector doctors do when relatives of deceased patients pressurise them to prevent medicolegal autopsies in cases of unnatural death?

D J McQuoid-Mason


This article deals with what doctors in the private sector should do if relatives of deceased patients refuse to consent to medicolegal autopsies and demand that the bodies be handed over to them. The law does not require consent by relatives for medicolegal autopsies, because the State has a compelling interest in ensuring that such deaths are properly investigated. Relatives of patients who have died an unnatural death may be criminally prosecuted if they attempt to obstruct doctors from carrying out their duties under the Inquests Act 58 of 1959 and the regulations regarding the rendering of forensic pathology services.

Author's affiliations

D J McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Medicolegal autopsies; Relatives refusing consent; Relative's consent not required; Obstructions criminal; Advice for doctors

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(10):743-744. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i10.14117

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-09-30
Date published: 2019-09-30

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