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Former brakeman fights for right to refuse autopsy

October 31st, 2008

A former railroad brakeman who received a mesothelioma diagnosis is fighting efforts by the asbestos industry to force him to undergo an autopsy following his death. In a recent hearing in a Seattle courtroom, James Ross and his mesothelioma attorneys argued that he should not be forced to undergo an autopsy against his will by several asbestos companies against whom he has filed a lawsuit.

Ross worked as a brakeman on the Great Northern Railway from 1956 until last year, when he was forced to retire because of his health. Ross was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2006 after he began to develop symptoms of the disease, such as shortness of breath.

According to asbestos lawyers representing the companies named in his mesothelioma lawsuit, Ross should be forced to undergo an autopsy following his death in order to determine the type of asbestos that killed him. However, Ross’ own attorney says that because neither his client’s illness nor its cause are in doubt, an autopsy is not necessary to the case and should not be mandated by the court.

In his testimony before the court, Ross said that he wants to spare his wife from any further hardships caused by his mesothelioma symptoms. “I’m not against all autopsies. I’m against someone telling my wife that they’ve got to do an autopsy on me,” he said. “With all the indignities that she’s got to go through with my disease, she doesn’t need to go through that when I pass away.”

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