Autopsy (Post Mortem Examination, Necropsy)

  • 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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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 6/1/2015

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