What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a medical examination of a body after death. Autopsies are done to determine cause of death, or to verify diagnosis.
Why is an autopsy performed?
Autopsies are performed for several reasons, including the following:
- When a suspicious death occurs
- When there's some public health concern, such as a mysterious disease
- If someone dies unattended by a physician, or if the attending physician is uncomfortable signing the death certificate
- The family of the deceased person can ask the hospital to perform an autopsy
Who performs the autopsy?
Autopsies ordered by the state can be performed by a county coroner, who is not necessarily a physician. A medical examiner who performs an autopsy is a physician, usually a pathologist.
How is an autopsy performed?
Autopsy procedure begins with the general and ends with the specific:
- First, a visual examination of the entire body is done, including the organs and internal structures.
- Then, microscopic, chemical, and microbiological examinations may be made of the organs and tissues.
- All organs removed for examination are weighed, and a section is preserved for processing into microscopic slides.
- A final report is made after all laboratory results are complete.