Autopsy Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

When an autopsy is performed, is it done on the whole body?

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

Answer:

Medical autopsies (not involving suspicious deaths or medicolegal issues) begin with a thorough external examination of the body before any incisions are made. However, the internal examination of organs and tissues usually is limited to the chest, abdomen, and brain in these cases.

Family members can, however, restrict the autopsy and exclude one or more areas of the body, or they may stipulate exactly which areas of the body or organs may be examined. This is done in writing on the official autopsy permit, which must be signed by the next-of-kin of the deceased.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 12/22/2006