Does Everybody Get an Autopsy When They Die?

  • 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.

Ask the experts?

Does everyone get an autopsy when they die? If not, who determines whether someone should get one?

Doctor's response

No, in fact, most people do not get an autopsy when they die. In cases of suspicious deaths, the medical examiner or coroner can order an autopsy to be performed, even without the consent of the next of kin. In all other cases (not of a medicolegal nature) the next-of-kin must give consent before an autopsy can be performed.

Sometimes family members decide that they want an autopsy performed to learn about possible genetic conditions or illnesses that may run in their family. An autopsy can also help provide closure to grieving families if there is uncertainty as to the cause of death. Sometimes the treating physician will request that the family give permission for an autopsy in order to assess the effectiveness of treatment or to confirm a clinical diagnosis.

Quick Guide8 First Aid Kit Essentials for Scrapes, Cuts, Bug Bites, and More in Pictures

8 First Aid Kit Essentials for Scrapes, Cuts, Bug Bites, and More in Pictures

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

REFERENCE:

"Selected Characteristics of Death Requiring Investigation by State"
Centers for Disease Control

Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.


Last Editorial Review: 7/10/2017

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors