What is an Autopsy?

An autopsy, an examination of a body after death, is done to find out the cause of death. After a terminal illness, like cancer, autopsies are generally not requested, but they may be done to clarify the cause of death or they may be done for educational purposes.

What happens to the body?

The body of the deceased should be treated respectfully. No signs should be visible after the body has been prepared for the viewing and/or funeral and can be even viewed at an open casket after, if the family wishes.

An autopsy is a surgical procedure with the body stitched up following the examination. The organs may be kept for examination later on or they can be replaced.

What is Involved?

The doctor will first look at the deceased’s body to see if there are any obvious abnormalities. Incisions are made and samples of tissue are taken. The brain may also be sampled or removed. Tissue samples that are taken are then sent for testing.

What is in the Report?

An autopsy report will contain the basic information of the deceased, the physical findings (appearance) and test findings. If the cause of death was not known, the cause should be entered in the report by the pathologist. In some cases, the cause isn’t discovered and that would be reported.

Can I refuse an Autopsy?

In cases of terminal illness, rarely is an autopsy required by law. If the deceased’s doctor is curious about the disease and its progress, you may be asked to consent to an autopsy but you are not obligated to agree.