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Autopsy Lab Do's & Don'ts

Forensic pathology is a sub-topic of forensic sciences that focuses on working out the cause of death. It is performed by trained medical examiners in an autopsy lab under the law during a crime scene investigation.

An Autopsy lab is the place where postmortem or autopsies are carried out to determine and establish:

  • The cause of death

  • Mode and manner of death

  • Time since death

  • Identity of the dead body

  • Verification of injuries noted

  • In case of a baby, whether it was alive or dead at birth

Types Of Autopsy

  • Pathological autopsy: is conducted to confirm the diagnosis made during the life of the patient

  • Medicolegal autopsy: is performed after law orders to find out whether the death was suicidal, homicidal, or due to an accident

  • Psychological autopsy: determines the mental status of a person before his death

  • Virtual autopsy/ Virtopsy: works around the principle of 3D-imaging which uses MRI, and CT scans to examine the internal body

  • Needle autopsy: helps in studying the body at a cellular level and provide extensive information of DNA and cells

  • Negative autopsy: fails to provide any information about the cause of death

However, certain ethical and legal limitations need to be considered while performing an autopsy. It is very important to handle the cadaver with due respect as if they were alive.

Before conducting the autopsy, two important things need to be taken care of. Firstly, you have to notify the family and relatives about the person’s death and all the events that led to it. The autopsy process should be transparent, and the family should have all the information about what is happening with the deceased person. Secondly, you should have a permission letter for carrying out the autopsy from the family members or the jurisdiction.

Do’s Of Autopsy

  • A designated and qualified doctor should be only allowed to conduct the autopsy.

  • The doctor performing the autopsy should only intend to determine the cause of death and have good faith.

  • Two points of identification should be marked to distinguish the dead body.

  • The privacy of the deceased person should be maintained, and only the area which needs to be dissected should be exposed.

  • Only a medical examiner conducting the autopsy and a few of his helpers should stay in the autopsy lab.

  • Tissue and viscera should be preserved to maintain the chain of evidence.

  • After the autopsy, the body should be adequately stitched back and cleaned before being handed back to the family.

  • The document containing the information of the autopsy should be signed and properly sealed by the medical officer.

Don’ts Of Autopsy

1. The information obtained during the autopsy should not be leaked out.

2. No photographs taken should be published or given to anybody.

3. Any organ transplantation or removal should not occur unless it has been permitted by the patient before death or if his family allows.


The autopsy of a deceased person is a very fragile matter and has to be done under the standard code of ethics. The cadaver has to be treated with respect and dignity so that no sentiments are hurt. It is also necessary to keep in view the religious and traditional values of the dead person and his/her family.

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