What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is an invasive examination of a deceased individual for the purpose of determining the cause and manner of death. A complete autopsy entails examination of the external body surface, an internal examination of the chest and abdominal cavities, and cranium (head). A non-forensic autopsy examination can also be limited to certain areas of interest and concern which the family can specify.

Who is most qualified to perform an autopsy?

American Board of Pathology (ABP) certified forensic pathologists are the most fully qualified experts for providing autopsy services. They are physicians who perform autopsies routinely and are specially trained to recognize the anatomic changes brought about by disease and sequelae of injury.

Are American Forensics pathologists board certified?

Yes. American Forensics' pathologists are board certified by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic, clinical, forensic, and/or neuropathology. All have performed thousands of autopsy examinations and are experienced in civil and criminal court testimony,

Can anyone request an autopsy?

Any family member or close friend of the deceased may ask for an autopsy, but the autopsy must be properly authorized. Additionally, some autopsy examinations are required by law because they fall under the jurisdiction of a coroner, justice of the peace, or medical examiner.

How soon after death should an autopsy be performed?

The autopsy should be performed as soon as possible after death to prevent the changes of decomposition from interfering with the examination results. When the deceased is properly cooled, a brief delay of several days generally will not interfere with the autopsy results. The results of some specialized tests may be affected by a delay in the autopsy examination.

Who is considered the legal next of kin?

The legal next of kin is one of the following: parent of a minor child, surviving spouse, oldest adult child (if both parents are deceased or divorced), and oldest adult sibling (if both are parents are deceased). For more information, contact American Forensics directly: (214) 221-2700.

Will the hospital where my family member died perform an autopsy?

Sometimes the hospital where the patient died will perform an autopsy free of charge to the family or at the request of the doctor treating the patient. However, not all hospitals provide this service. Check with the individual hospital as to their policies.

Is the pathologist providing the autopsy responsible for signing the death certificate?

No. The attending physician who provided medical services prior to the person's death is responsible for signing the death certificate. In the event the attending physician doesn't sign the death certificate, then the coroner or medical examiner takes jurisdiction. A medical examiner, coroner, or justice of the peace will sign death certificates for cases under their jurisdiction.

When does a medical examiner order an autopsy?

The Coroner, Medical Examiner or Justice of the Peace has authority over cases of sudden, unexpected, violent or traumatic death. The Medical Examiner may also take jurisdiction of cases involving a natural death under certain circumstances. If the deceased has a significant, well-documented medical history, the Medical Examiner will usually release the case and not perform an autopsy. The guidelines may vary by jurisdiction.

Where are private autopsies performed?

Private autopsies will be performed in our facility where the highest clinical and forensic standards are practiced. 

Who performs the autopsy?

An American Forensics Board Certified Forensic Pathologist conducts and administers the autopsy from start to finish.

Does insurance pay for an autopsy?

No. Private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid do not pay for autopsy examinations.

Why would I request an autopsy?

If not under the jurisdiction of a medical examiner, an autopsy may be recommended. Questions family members may have related to the death can be investigated. An autopsy often discloses information about inheritable diseases that will assist surviving family members with their own healthcare. If medical malpractice or medical neglect is suspected, an autopsy can document the disease process and treatment. We suggest you consult with an American Forensics doctor who can help you decide if your questions related to the death can be answered by an autopsy

Will an autopsy hinder funeral arrangements?

Autopsy should not interfere with viewing at a funeral. When performed correctly, the incisions performed at the time of autopsy are not visible after routine embalming procedures and would not interfere with viewing the deceased at a funeral.

Can an autopsy be performed if the body has been embalmed?

Yes, however, for the best outcome, an autopsy should be performed on an un-embalmed body after proper refrigeration. If there is a long delay (beyond one week) between the time of death and the autopsy, embalming is recommended to preserve the body tissues. Embalming interferes with most of the toxicology studies.

When will I get my report of the autopsy findings?

The forensic pathologist conducting the autopsy is available to discuss case findings with the family throughout the process. A preliminary one-page written report, called u201cProvisional Anatomical Diagnosisu201d is mailed to the authorizing family member within 24-48 hours after an autopsy is performed. The final report including all histology and toxicology tests interpreted by the physician will be completed and mailed within 60 days.

Who can authorize an autopsy?

In the case of a private autopsy, only the legal next of kin can authorize an autopsy. A medical examiner, coroner, or justice of the peace may also authorize autopsy examinations when they fall under their jurisdiction. Texas law specifies that consent for an autopsy be provided by (in the order listed): 1. Spouse 2. Any child of legal age 3. Guardian or court having care of minor child 4. A parent 5. A guardian 6. The next of kin (other relative) 7. Any person who assumes custody of and responsibility for the burial of the body. (Please note that a Power of Attorney expires when an individual dies).

How much does an autopsy cost?

The basic fee is $2,500.00 for a private autopsy when the family wants to know the cause of death and gain valuable information about genetic or inherited diseases. This includes the review of appropriate medical records, microscopic slide examination (histology), microbiology (when appropriate), basic medical photography and, comprehensive toxicology analysis and interpretation. Neuropathology examinations are also $2500.00 and a complete autopsy with neuropathology costs $4500.00. Contract rates for Texas Justices of the Peace, governmental agencies and hospitals are negotiable. Contact American Forensics for full details.

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