The Ontario coroner's office is reaching out to people whose loved ones underwent autopsies and then had their organs kept by the province.

Forensic pathologists sometimes need more time after an autopsy to study organs more closely. But before 2010, there was no protocol for returning those organs to the person's family.

Toby Rose

Toby Rose, the province's deputy chief forensic pathologist, says a new policy requires her office to notify families if organs are retained, and get written instructions on what to do with them afterwards. (Ontario Forensic Pathology Service)

The province's deputy chief forensic pathologist said a new policy requires her office to notify families if organs are retained, and get written instructions on what to do with them afterward.

"Many families feel it's important when they bury a loved one that all of the organs are present,” Toby Rose said.

“And we needed to have a policy that would ensure that."

So far the province has returned organs to about 30 families, she added.

"The new policy says that any pathologist who thinks they might need to retain an organ must inform the family that the organ is going to be retained,” she said. “They must get written instructions from the family about what to do when testing is finished."

The coroner's office in Thunder Bay has fielded inquiries from about six families with regard to returning organs to loved ones.