- To confirm a medical diagnosis made before the death involving a genetic disease that could affect surviving family members. While advancements have been made in accurately diagnosing Alzheimer’s, for example, a brain autopsy remains the only method of confirming the disease.
- If the death was unexpected -- particularly if it occurred during a health-related procedure, such as surgery, giving birth, etc.
- When knowing the precise cause of death could impact legal matters, such as payment of an insurance policy.
- To further the study, understanding or treatment of a disease in order to possibly benefit others in the future.
Before requesting an autopsy, the next-of-kin should thoroughly consider the possible ramifications, which might include:
- The effect of the post-mortem procedure on grieving survivors. An autopsy involves making incisions in the chest and/or skull of the deceased in order to inspect/remove organs, which some loved ones might find an unpleasant idea.
- Cultural or religious acceptance. For example, both Orthodox and Conservative Jewish law generally prohibit autopsies because of the belief in the inviolability of the body after death.
- Additional financial obligation. The cost of the autopsy might be charged to the family if not ordered by a medical examiner.
"Autopsy." www.aurorahealthcare.org. 2010. Aurora Health Care. Retrieved July 17, 2012. http://www.aurorahealthcare.org/yourhealth/healthgate/getcontent.asp?URLhealthgate=14771.html
"Rates of autopsy." www.medscape.com. 2012. Medscape.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1705948-overview#aw2aab6b3
"Should I have an autopsy done on my loved one?" www.webmd.com. 2008. WebMD.com. Retrieved July 17, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/should-i-have-an-autopsy-done-on-my-loved-one