Can You Have an Open-Casket Funeral after an Autopsy?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Is an open-casket funeral possible following an autopsy?

Doctor's response

In almost all cases, the performance of an autopsy will not interfere with any type of viewing the family chooses. The incisions generally used to examine the body at autopsy are not visible after the body is prepared for viewing and burial. Even if the brain is examined during autopsy, the incisions used to examine the brain are made on the lower back part of the head and are covered by the pillow during viewing of the body.

In rare situations, injuries to the face, scalp, or hands may necessitate examination of these areas during an autopsy, which could leave marks that may be visible during viewing of the body. Be sure to discuss your wishes for an open casket or viewing with the doctor, who will be able to address any specific concerns or questions you may have about the autopsy.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


"Investigations and Autopsies"
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Reviewed on 8/2/2017

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