The Real Truth About Postmortem Examination

Postmortem examinations are often NOT necessary when one is able to review antecedent medical records after a NATURAL CAUSE of patient’s demise.  In fact, death investigation by removing all organs en-bloc, as it is often referred to, has become archaic, given the many advances in modern technology, particularly in respect to MRI, CT-scan, PET-scan, Echo cardiogram, and many others.  Moreover, even the advancement of modern medical laboratory procedures has created conditions for “proof of fact” about cellular, tissue, and organic functions by simply evaluating a small biopsy sample or collecting body fluids.  The dimensions as well as size and weight of organs are often in line as with what is estimated by ANTECEDENT IMAGING STUDIES, including ECHO-cardiogram for heart valves and chamber sizes, as well as size of ventricular/atrial myocardium (heart muscular wall) for instance when assessing cardiomyopathy, or weight of Liver, kidney, and Spleen as well as other organs when assessing organomegaly due to certain diseases, for another example.  When evaluated together with antecedent medical records, imaging studies, and clinical laboratory results, one is able to derive at a sound and reasonable cause of death without dispute.

So, the question becomes, why is it then necessary for the next of kin of a loved one to pay on average in excess of 3500 to 5000 dollars for a private autopsy (postmortem ) examination on the person’s loved one?  Well, the short answer to this question is that it is not necessary to pay that kind of money, when one can simply have medical records reviewed, and selectively sample cells, tissues, and organs at postmortem that may support the antecedent medical records of the deceased to accurately CONFIRM the cause of a loved one’s death.

Forensic Death Investigation, as with a death that has NOT been witnessed or to address legal concerns surrounding a death for homicide, suicide, and accidental death is a different ball game all-together, and is generally under REGIONAL legal authority.

I would advise THE NEXT OF KIN to ask questions prior to CONSENTING TO a postmortem examination: 1) What answer(s) will the postmortem investigation bring to new light? 2) What recommendation is advised in regards to  the least intrusion of the loved one’s body to derive at necessary information to resolve cause of death.




Written By: Dr. Jackson Gates

Dr. Jackson L. Gates, MD serves as our Founder & President of Medical Diagnostic Choices. He has personally diagnosed, treated, and reviewed well over 100,000 combined, clinical and laboratory medicine cases over his community-based medical practice career.

June 28, 2014

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