Second Autopsy Forensic Pathologist
Want A Second Autopsy?
Board Certified in Forensic Pathology, consults in Medical Malpractice, Second Autopsy, Wrongful Death, Criminal Defense.
Please contact us using the contact form above.
General Overview of a Second Autopsy:
Second autopsy and postmortem investigation services are offered by a board certified forensic pathologist. As an independent medical examiner, the pathologist works on behalf of families of the deceased, whether victims of wrongful death or medical malpractice, or whether the family simply wants to better understand the process that led to death their loved one. Asecond autopsy is a useful option when a hospital autopsy is not practical or if the family wants an independent unbiased opinion as to the cause of death. It is not uncommon for the local coroner to decline the family an autopsy.
What is a Second Autopsy?
A complete second autopsy is an external and internal examination of the body after death using surgical techniques. The examination is performed by a pathologist, a medical doctor who is specially trained in this type of procedure and who is able to recognize the effects of disease and trauma on the body. The procedure takes about two to four hours to perform. This examination may be comprehensive or limited to a particular area of the body. For example, in the case of a suspected heart attack, some physicians and families request that the autopsy be limited to examination of the chest. However, limiting the scope of the autopsy may reduce its value.
The second autopsy room is regarded as a special place for gathering medical knowledge. The body is treated with dignity and respect, and the wishes of the family are maintained at all times. Small samples of each organ are taken for microscopic examination to look for disease such as malignancy or infection. Other tests that may be performed include studying genes and checking for drugs, chemicals, or toxic substances. When the examination is completed, a written report is issued. The final report takes several weeks to prepare due to the detailed studies that may be performed. The report becomes a permanent part of the patients medical record. The findings may be discussed with the family physician or with the pathologist.
Why perform a Second Autopsy?
The primary purpose of a secondautopsy is to answer any questions the family or physician may have about the illness, cause of death, and/or any co-existing conditions. Establishing a cause of death can be a source of comfort to families. The second autopsy may also determine whether there are inheritable problems and help other family members through early diagnosis and treatment. Furthermore, what is learned through a secondautopsy on one patient may help save the lives of others with similar conditions.
Who requests a Second Autopsy?
In some cases, the law may mandate that a secondautopsy be performed. In all other cases, permission is required. Permission to perform the second autopsy can be requested either by the patients physician or by the family. In some cases, the patient may have indicated their wish for a secondautopsy in discussions with the family or by signing a personal directive for a second autopsy. The second autopsy cannot be performed without consent of the legally designated responsible party, usually the next of kin. When giving consent, the family may make any restrictions, limitations, or special requests.
How families benefit from the Second Autopsy
- Confirming a specific cause of death may simply ease the stress of the unknown.
- Finding that diagnosis and treatment was appropriate may be comforting to the family.
- Knowledge that information gained by the autopsy may help someone else to live longer may ease the profound sense of loss experienced by families.
- Discovering inherited or familial diseases may help families through early diagnosis and treatment, and in family planning.
- Discovering an infectious disease, for example tuberculosis, may lead to early diagnosis and treatment to help other family members and close contacts.
- Uncovering evidence of a work-related disease might lead to compensation for the family.
Providing crucial information for the settling of insurance claims or death benefits may result in benefits for the family.
Common concerns about Second Autopsies
Is there a charge for the Second Autopsy?
Private forensic pathology medical examiners do charge for this service. While the second autopsy may be performed at the funeral home, ideally it should be performed in forensic pathology setting by a specialized pathologist. In some cases, there may be a charge for transportation of the body to and from a secondautopsy facility. The cost of tranporting your loved one to and from the forensic pathology facility is less expensive than bringing a pathologist to a furneral home.
Will the Second Autopsy affect funeral arrangements?
The performance of a secondautopsy should not delay a funeral or affect viewing of the body. Funeral directors and pathologists have been working together for many years so that the final arrangements for the body can be made. One common misunderstanding is that a complete autopsy prevents a family from having an open-casket wake/viewing service. This is not true and in fact the pathologists work very closely with your funeral director to insure the viewing of your loved one is not effected by the second autopsy procedure. The second autopsy in fact will give the family closure about the actual cause of death of their loved one.
Does the pathologist retain any organs?
The pathologist may retain some organ samples for more detailed examination and research. Families may require that organs be released to the funeral home with the body by giving specific instructions in the written second autopsy consent form. However, doing so may limit the value of the second autopsy and is not recommended. Remember the whole purpose of the second autopsy is to give your family a complete understanding as to why your loved one died.