A post mortem had been carried out by the defendants. The claimants, her grandmother and child sought damages after it was discovered that not all body parts had been returned for burial, some being retained instead for medical research. They now appealed an order striking out their claim on the baiss that it disclosed no reasonable cause of damage.
Held: The appeal failed. Next of kin have no right to regain possession of a deceased’s body part which had been removed for autopsy. There was no ownership of a body after death. The autopsy process did not transform a body part into an object capable of ownership. The claim was pleaded in conversion, bailment and wrongful interference with the brain, and the plaintiffs could not establish that they had the right to possession at the time the brain was disposed of. The plaintiff’s desire to discover exactly what had happened to all the body parts was not a sufficient reason for litigation.
Where there is no executor the duty to take possession of and dispose of the body of the deceased falls upon the administrators of the estate, but they may not be able to obtain an injunction for delivery of the body before the grant of letters of administration
Peter Gibson LJ, Butler-Sloss LJ, Peter Gibson LJ
Times 15-Jul-1996, Gazette 29-Aug-1996,  1 WLR 596,  EWCA Civ 1301, (1997) 33 BMLR 146,  1 FLR 598,  8 Med LR 357,  4 All ER 474,  Fam Law 326,  2 FCR 651
Coroners Rules 1984 (1984 No 552)
England and Wales
Considered – Doodeward v Spence 1908
(High Court of Australia) The police seized from an exhibitor the body of a two headed still born baby which had been preserved in a bottle.
Held: An order was made for its return: ‘If, then, there can, under some circumstances, be a continued . .
Cited – Armory v Delamirie KBD 1722
A jeweller to whom a chimney sweep had taken a jewel he had found, took the jewel out of the socket and refused to return it. The chimney sweep sued him in trover. On the measure of damages, the court ruled ‘unless the defendant did produce the . .
Cited – Norwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs and Excise Commissioners HL 26-Jun-1973
Innocent third Party May still have duty to assist
The plaintiffs sought discovery from the defendants of documents received by them innocently in the exercise of their statutory functions. They sought to identify people who had been importing drugs unlawfully manufactured in breach of their . .
Cited – Williams v Williams 1882
By codicil to his will the deceased directed that his executors should give his body to Miss Williams; and by letter he requested her to cremate his body under a pile of wood, to place the ashes into a specified Wedgwood vase and to claim her . .
Cited – Clarke v London General Omnibus Co Ltd 1906
The parent of an infant child who dies where the parent has the means to do so, has a responsibility to arrange and pay for the burial. . .
Cited – Sharp v Lush 1879
An executor appointed by will is entitled to obtain possession of the body for its proper disposal. . .
Cited – Rees v Hughes 1946
The need to arrange for funerals is a common law obligation ‘in the nature of a public duty’. . .
Cited – AB and others v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust QBD 26-Mar-2004
Representative claims were made against the respondents, hospitals, pathologists etc with regard to the removal of organs from deceased children without the informed consent of the parents. They claimed under the tort of wrongful interference.
Cited – Yearworth and others v North Bristol NHS Trust CA 4-Feb-2009
The defendant hospital had custody of sperm samples given by the claimants in the course of fertility treatment. The samples were effectively destroyed when the fridge malfunctioned. Each claimant was undergoing chemotherapy which would prevent them . .
Cited – Buchanan v Milton FD 27-May-1999
The applicant sought to displace, solely for burial purposes, as personal representative a person who was otherwise entitled to a grant.
Held: Hale J said: ‘There is no right of ownership in a dead body. However, there is a duty at common law . .
Cited – Anstey v Mundle and Another ChD 25-Feb-2016
The deceased had been born in Jamaica, but had lived in the UK for many years. The parties, before a grant in the estate of the deceased, disputed whether he should be buried in England or returned to Jamaica for burial.
Held: Having . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Wills and Probate, Damages
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.80077