(1) “Autopsy” means a postmortem dissection of a dead human body in order to determine the cause, seat, or nature of disease or injury and includes the retention of tissues customarily removed during the course of autopsy for evidentiary, identification, diagnostic, scientific, or therapeutic purposes.
(2) Unless otherwise authorized by statute, no autopsy shall be performed without the written consent by the health care surrogate, as provided in s. 765.202, if one has been designated. If a health care surrogate has not been designated, then written consent may be provided by the spouse, nearest relative, or, if no such next of kin can be found, the person who has assumed custody of the body for purposes of burial. When two or more persons assume custody of the body for such purposes, then the consent of any one of them shall be sufficient to authorize the autopsy.
(3) Any such written consent may be given by telegram, and any telegram purporting to have been sent by a person authorized to give such consent will be presumed to have been sent by such person. A duly witnessed telephone permission is acceptable in lieu of written permission in those circumstances where obtaining written permission would result in undue delay.
(4) If after diligent search and inquiry it is established by the chief law enforcement officer having jurisdiction, through his or her examination of missing persons records and other inquiry, that no person can be found who can authorize an autopsy as herein provided, then after a reasonable time, any person licensed to practice medicine under chapter 458 or osteopathic medicine under chapter 459, and whose practice involves the usual performance of autopsies, may conduct an autopsy, without written consent, on the remains for purposes of confirming medical diagnosis and suspected communicable diseases; and no cause of action will be brought against such physician for performance of such autopsy. A reasonable time for purposes of this provision shall be not less than 48 hours or more than 72 hours after death.