(Reuters) – An Ohio coroner will not perform an autopsy on the U.S. student who died after being held prisoner in North Korea for 17 months and will perform an external examination of the body at the family’s request, the agency said on Tuesday.
The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office was conferring with doctors at the Cincinnati hospital where Otto Warmbier, 22, died on Monday, before reaching any conclusions about his death, investigator Daryl Zornes said.
Investigators were still reviewing radiological images and awaiting additional medical records requested by the coroner, Zornes told Reuters.
Earlier in the day, the coroner’s office said it had received Warmbier’s body for an autopsy examination and was expecting to release preliminary findings later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.
But plans changed after the coroner’s office decided at the family’s urging not to conduct an autopsy, instead limiting its examination to an external analysis of Warmbier’s remains and review of his records, Zornes said.
There was no immediate word from the family about why relatives opted not to perform an autopsy, which may have shed more light on the cause of the neurological injuries Warmbier suffered in North Korea.
Warmbier’s death came just days after he was released by the North Korean government and returned to the United States suffering from extensive brain damage, according to the U.S. doctors who treated him.
Warmbier, an Ohio native and student at the University of Virginia, was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 while visiting as a tourist. He was sentenced two months later to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, the nation’s state media said.
The circumstances of his detention and what medical treatment he received in North Korea remain unknown.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker)