Autopsy: Answers to Common Questions

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is an examination of the body after death. The examination is performed by a pathologist — a medical doctor specially trained to perform the procedure and to recognize the effects of illness or injury to the body.

Why is an autopsy performed?

To answer questions a physician or family may have about an illness, cause of death or any other medical conditions the decedent may have had. Frequently, an autopsy will identify the precise cause(s) of death, providing valuable information to both the decedent’s physician and family.

What happens during the autopsy?

The pathologist performing the autopsy examines the outside of the body carefully, looking for any signs of illness or injury. The inside of the body is then examined, using procedures that are like those used during surgical operations. Small samples of organs or tissues may be taken for examination under a microscope.

Who gets the autopsy results?

The results of the autopsy typically take at least 30 working days and are shared with the decedent’s physician.