Who Gets Your Organs 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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What happens to the internal organs after an autopsy is performed?

Doctor's response

After the organs are examined by the pathologist in their normal anatomical location, the organs to be examined further (usually the organs of the chest and abdomen, and sometimes the brain) are removed for further study. At this point the organs usually are separated from each other and further dissected (cut open) to reveal any abnormalities, such as tumors, on the inside. Small samples of normal and abnormal tissue typically are taken from all organs and then prepared as slides for examination under a microscope. At the end of an autopsy, the incisions made in the body are sewn closed. The organs may be returned to the body prior to closing the incision or they may be retained for teaching, research, and diagnostic purposes. It is permissible to ask about this when giving consent for an autopsy to be performed. In most cases, relatives of the deceased can also stipulate that the organs be returned to the body for burial, if they so choose.

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


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Reviewed on 6/22/2017

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