Autopsy Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

Are all autopsies necessarily performed at the hospital where the patient died or received medical treatment? Are there circumstances in which the family can request an autopsy to be performed at a different facility?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Söppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Answer:

Generally, when a physician speaks with family members about performing an autopsy on a deceased relative and consent is given for the autopsy, the autopsy will be performed at the institution where the individual was hospitalized or received medical care. Of course, if the case has been referred to the coroner or medical examiner's office for medicolegal investigations, the autopsy is performed at the coroner or medical examiner's facility.

Occasionally, family members are uncomfortable giving permission for an autopsy to be performed at the hospital where the deceased was a patient and wish to seek an "outside" opinion. In many communities, pathologists offer private autopsy services that allow independent, licensed pathologists to conduct autopsies in funeral homes, or at other locations before the body is prepared for burial. The hospital will not arrange these services; the family members of the deceased are responsible for making any necessary arrangements.

An important point to consider with private autopsy services is that you will be charged for the service, whereas there usually are not charges for autopsies performed in the hospital where the patient was treated. Only the next-of-kin of the deceased may give permission for a private autopsy.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 12/4/2006