Coconino County Superior Court Judge Richard Mangum has granted a Navajo medicine man's petition to prevent the county medical examiner from performing an autopsy on his son.
Medicine Man Jasper Manygoats Sr., who lives on the Navajo Indian Reservation, hired a Flagstaff attorney to intervene when he learned that the medical examiner intended to perform an autopsy on his son, Alvin Manygoats Manning, on Aug. 31.Manning, 37, died after being struck by a car while walking along U.S. 89, about a half mile north of Flagstaff.
On behalf of Manygoats, attorney Roy Ward wrote in his petition that the medicine man "has deeply held religious beliefs, among which is the belief that any violation of a dead body will result in serious damage to the spirit of the deceased, as well as emotional and psychological damage to the family of the deceased."
Many Navajos believe that a person's immortal soul remains attached to the physical body four days after death, said Steve Darden, former director of Native Americans For Community Action.
Traditional belief holds that autopsies cause a deceased person additional suffering in this world while he or she is awaiting transition to another level of existence, Darden said, adding that many Navajos believe that if a person is not returned to Mother Earth through burial within four days, the soul will roam the Earth and cause disturbances to other people.