Autopsy Frequently Asked Questions


 

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy a medical procedure consisting of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death. An autopsy will can also evaluate any disease or injury that may be present. It is usually performed by a specialized medical doctor called a pathologist, who is typically a medical physician, who studies the effects of diseases, medical treatment and injury to the body. A forensic pathologist typically performs autopsies in a death investigation. They specialize in using autopsy studies to establish a legally admissible manner of death in the court of law. Autopsies can also be performer by individuals including medical examiners, who are typically medical pathologists and physicians, and by coroners, who are not necessarily physicians.

There are two types of autopsies -
forensic or clinical. A forensic autopsy is carried out when the cause of death may be a criminal matter and is often done to aide in a police investigation when the cause of death is suspicious. A clinical autopsy is typically carried out in a hospital by a pathologist and order by the attending physician of a patient to determine the cause of death for research or study purposes.



What are the typical causes of death listed in an autopsy?

In the United States, there are typically five legally defined manner of death:  Natural Cause, Accident, Homicide, Suicide, and Undetermined.



Who may request an autopsy?

An autopsy can be requested by the next of kin of the deceased or legally responsible party, or in the event of suspicious death or criminal investigation, an autopsy may be performed without the consent of the next of kin.

If the autopsy is requested by the next of kin or responsible party, a doctor will ask you to sign a consent form to give permission for the autopsy. The autopsy can be limited in any manner you wish.

 

Why is an autopsy performed?

  • An autopsy is performed in the event or a suspicious death

  • An autopsy is typically ordered in the event of a public health concern, such as an unknown disease.

  • An autopsy can be performed if someone dies unattended by a physician or if a physician is uncomfortable signing a death certificate.

  • An autopsy can be performed if requested by the next of kin or legally responsible party of the decedent.

 


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