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Generally, the next of kin have no property right in the remains of a decedent. There is a right limited to possession of the body for the purpose of burial, sepulture or other lawful disposition, and interference with this right gives rise to a tort action. The next of kin's right in a decedent's remains is based upon the personal right of the decedent's next of kin to bury the body rather than any property right in the body itself.
Appellee family members sued appellant state after appellant coroner removed corneal tissue from decedents without giving notice to or obtaining consent from the parents of the decedent, pursuant to Fla. Stat. ch. 732.9185. The trial court granted summary judgment to the appellees and found that the statute was unconstitutional because it deprived survivors of their fundamental personal property rights to dispose of their deceased next of kin and, further, because it was an unconstitutional taking for a non-public purpose. Appellant state sought review.
Was Fla. Stat. ch. 732.9185 unconstitutional for depriving survivors of their fundamental personal property rights to dispose of their deceased next of kin and for permitting an unconstitutional taking for a non-public purpose?
The court reversed and remanded. It found that Fla. Stat. ch. 732.9185 was constitutional because the record clearly established that the statute reasonably achieved the permissible legislative objective of providing sight to citizens. Furthermore, the court found that a person's constitutional rights terminated at death, that the next of kin did not have property rights in the remains of a decedent, and that the corneal tissue removal was not a taking of property.