Family members can request a post-mortem or autopsy report when a mesothelioma patient dies. Any information published in this report is subject to the same rule of doctor-patient confidentiality that medical records of the living are. Autopsy findings are discussed with the next-of-kin (and immediate family members) only. Third parties must have permission from the next-of-kin to have access to the findings.
Why is an Autopsy Performed?
The objective in examining the dead person’s body is either to verify the cause of death, determine how extensive the disease was, or decide if treatment was effective.
Can a Doctor Order an Autopsy?
The consent of the next-of-kin must be obtained before a physician can order an autopsy. The next-of-kin also has the right to limit how extensive the autopsy is, e.g. only to the area affected by the disease. The only instance in which an autopsy can be ordered without the consent of the next-of-kin is when the death appears to be suspicious and then the medical examiner has the right to request it.
How is the Autopsy Performed?
Pathologists typically examine the chest, brain and abdomen. The steps listed below are how the standard autopsy is performed:
- A physical examination is performed, noting height, weight, and the presence of identifying marks (scars or tattoos).
- A Y or U-shaped incision is made starting at one shoulder, going down to the pubic bone and then back up to the other shoulder. Skin and tissue are parted to expose the rib cage and abdominal cavity. The front of the rib cage is taken away so that the neck and the organs in the chest are visible.
- The abdominal organs are then taken out.
- An incision is made in the back of the skull from ear to ear so that the brain can be removed. The scalp is cut, separated from the skull and pulled forward. The top of the skull is removed and the brain is lifted out. The spinal cord may or may not be removed.
- A pathologist examines the organs to note any visible changes.
- The organs are then dissected to allow the pathologist to identify any abnormalities within the organ.
- Samples are taken from the organs to be affixed to slides for microscopic examination.
- The incisions are closed after the autopsy has been completed. However, the organs may not be replaced. They are sometimes kept for research or teaching purposes.
What Type of Report is Produced After an Autopsy?
A comprehensive report is prepared that:
- Outlines the procedure used and any microscopic findings
- Lists the diagnosis and a summary of the case
The report is designed to examine the relationship between the doctor’s examination, laboratory tests, findings from imaging scans/x-rays, and findings obtained from the autopsy.
Does Having the Body Autopsied Interfere with an Open Casket Funeral?
The deceased’s family can still opt to have an open casket funeral after an autopsy because none of the incisions will be visible once the body has been embalmed and dressed.
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