As his family tries to finalise details for the King of Pop’s funeral on Tuesday they have been told it will be held back for tests.
They faced the grim choice of waiting up to three weeks for Jackson’s brain to be returned to them or go ahead and bury him without it – which they have decided to do.
Los Angeles Coroner’s spokesman Craig Harvey confirmed that neuropathology tests will be carried out to see if it holds any clues to the exact cause of his death.
But the examination cannot begin until at least two weeks after the death when the brain has hardened sufficiently to slice it open.
Jackson died from a cardiac arrest at his Beverly Hills mansion on June 25 after a suspected overdose of painkillers.
Sources at the coroner’s office revealed that his brain was removed before his body was released to relatives the next day.
A forensic neuropathologist will test Jackson’s brain for, among other things, past drug use and whether he has suffered overdoses in the past.
The brain can also show any past abuse of alcohol or if the deceased had suffered from any one of a number of diseases. The source said that removing the brain is the “only way to carry out the tests”.
“The tissue has to be examined,” he said. “I can’t tell you how long that is going to take.”
One expert explained that the Jackson family could decide to wait and bury the brain with the rest of the body. But it is far more common for the lab to burn the remains once they’ve been examined or for them to be placed into the grave at a later date.
“It’s up to the family. They can bury him and then bury the brain later on,” said Dr Cyril Wecht, a former coroner and one of America’s foremost forensic pathologists.
But he added: “It’s rare for the body to be held back for two weeks or more.”