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Cash-strapped Sandwell Council to spend £30k on digital post mortems

A council has set aside £30,000 in its budget to pay for digital post mortems to be carried out.


Sandwell Council leader Darren Cooper hailed the move saying it would use new technology which was a 'state of the art, non invasive approach,' to post mortems.

Last year Sandwell became only the third area in the country to install a £1.2 million 'digital autopsy' suite at Sandwell Valley Crematorium, alongside Sheffield and Bradford.

The scanning facility was installed by iGene London Ltd and is run by them.

Now, the council has decided to allocate funds to make digital post mortems the preferred method.

Bosses believe digital autopsies are less stressful for grieving families because the procedure is less invasive.

A 3D scan of a body using the technology at the £1.2m autopsy centre
A 3D scan of a body using the technology at the £1.2m autopsy centre

The cabinet has agreed to foot the bill for each digital examination carried out at the request of the Black Country Coroner.

Council leader Darren Cooper said: "With things like this it is always the coroner's call, as he is the professional, he makes the call as to what the best procedure is. This means that the council will simply pay for digital autopsies, if the coroner thinks they are superior, the same way it pays for traditional ones."

The digital suite offers a less invasive way to carry out post mortems, using a CT scanner which means the coroner is not required to carry out a full autopsy.

Since the digital suite was installed at the crematorium in October, 20 digital examinations have been carried out by Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique. Of those, two required a further traditional post mortem.

A report submitted to cabinet by officers said: "Following a period of extensive testing, calibration and training of staff and pathologists, scanning commenced on behalf of the Black Country Coroner in January 2015.

"As a result of the leadership demonstrated by the coroner and his desire to embrace innovative working to improve service delivery for the bereaved, use of the digital autopsy facility in Sandwell has become established and is becoming the standard operating procedure."

The coroner would still have to request a post mortem in the usual manner.

A family would only pay the bill if someone died and there wasn't a need for any autopsy but they wanted one for their own reasons. Requests from families outside the borough would not be funded by the council.

Previously Mr Siddique said he was impressed by the digital autopsy suite and said he believed it represented a 'real opportunity' to explore less invasive post mortems.

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