Autopsy (cont.)

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Who pays for autopsies?

Presently, there is no direct funding to hospitals or doctors for autopsies. As part of the federal government's Medicare funding to hospitals, reimbursement for autopsies is theoretically included in fixed payments that hospitals receive. Thus, the federal government contends that it is paying for autopsies. Since these funds are not specifically earmarked for autopsies, they may not reach the pathology department or pathologist. Managed care organizations consider the autopsy to be built into their hospital contracts. However, these organizations have stated that they are willing to reimburse for autopsies if and when they are convinced of their value. Sometimes in hospital autopsies performed at the request of physicians, the autopsy is not billed to the patient's family, but they should check with the hospital performing the service. This is different from autopsies the family requests of private pathologists, which may lead to charges billed to the deceased's next-of-kin.

In our litigation-oriented society, a growing proportion of private-pay autopsies are motivated by distrust, anger, and a desire to sue the potentially responsible physician(s) and hospital. Several groups of pathologists and business persons throughout the country are marketing their autopsy services through direct mail, newspapers, funeral homes, and online. Whether the quality and objectivity of these private autopsies will match those of general hospitals and academic medical centers remains to be determined.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/27/2014