California 2003: ME persuaded not to autopsy an unattended death

Early on the morning of Monday, February 24th, Dr. Thomas Munson experienced cardiac arrest in Southern California. Dr. Munson had been a long-time Alcor member who formerly served as our medical director at a time when few professional physicians were willing to be associated with cryonics. We are extremely sad to lose him, and we hope that through our efforts he may have a significant chance of renewed life in the future.

At 8:50 AM (all times in this text are Mountain Standard, one hour later than Pacific) I (Charles Platt) answered the Alcor emergency line and found myself speaking to Tom Munson Jr, who was calling from the San Diego area. Tom Jr. explained that Dr. Munson had complained of nausea and shortness of breath, said he felt faint, and lay down to rest. His breathing had become slow and shallow, and finally ceased. Tom Jr. had called the paramedics, but while I was on the phone he told me that the paramedics were abandoning their attempts at resuscitation. I asked if they were willing to administer heparin, and they refused, citing the risk that Dr. Munson's unexpected death could cause him to become a coroner's case.

Under California law the coroner's office may issue an autopsy waiver if a physician has seen the patient recently and will state that there is good reason to believe death came from natural causes. Tom Jr. started trying to contact his father's physician while I telephoned some members of Alcor's Southern California standby team and then contacted Joe Klockgether at his mortuary in Buena Park, near Los Angeles. Mr. Klockgether has helped us in numerous cryonics cases. When I asked him to dispatch a pickup service as quickly as possible, he warned me that if the patient was taken for autopsy, pickup would not be possible. I requested that the service should go out anyway in the hope that an autopsy waiver would be granted by the time they got there.

Between 9:30 and 10:00 AM we received two unexpectedly good pieces of news. The coroner's office granted a waiver eliminating the need for autopsy, and Tom Jr. found a set of portmortem medications which Dr. Munson had acquired some years ago.

SOURCE: ME persuaded not to autopsy an unattended death (Case Summary Excerpt)