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What is an autopsy?

An autopsy—sometimes called a 'post mortem'—is a type of medical procedure performed by a pathologist.

A pathologist is a qualified doctor specialising in pathology, which is the science that looks at the effects on the body of disease or damage.

What does an autopsy involve?

The pathologist carries out an external and internal examination of the body. The person's body is treated with great respect at all times.

Techniques similar to those used in surgical operations are involved. The major organs of the body are removed, examined and specimens are taken for detailed scientific and medical examination.

These may include tests for:

  • infection (microbiology)
  • changes in body tissue and organs (histology)
  • chemicals, for example medication, drugs or poisons (toxicology and pharmacology).

These tests are carried out on samples of blood or tissue that are taken from the person's body and retained for that purpose.

Why are autopsies necessary in some cases?

The benefit of an autopsy is that it can provide detailed information about the person's health and condition to give an understanding of the various factors that may have contributed to their death.

Even if the cause of death seems clear, the person may have had a medical condition that was not obvious during their life.

If a coroner believes an autopsy will help the investigation, we will contact the 'senior next of kin' first. We will explain the process and answer any questions.

For further information about autopsies contact Coronial Admissions and Enquiries on 1300 309 519.