Purpose of autopsies
The purpose of a post-mortem examination (i.e. an autopsy) is to obtain a complete picture of the former health status of the deceased person and a fuller understanding of all the factors that may have contributed to the person’s death. This information may be important for the next of kin (e.g. if the person died from an infectious or genetic disease), or for the community as a whole (in identifying or tracing outbreaks of disease; in teaching doctors and nurses; and in checking the quality of the hospital’s diagnostic and treatment procedures).
Consent and objection to autopsies
To agree to something being done, to approve an action or arrangement. See also informed consent. is required prior to carrying out a post-mortem examination unless it is ordered by the coroner. As is the case with organ and tissue donation, the law operates on the principle that the views a person expressed while alive about the use of their body after death A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. be respected once they are dead. Therefore, the law on consent for post-mortem examinations and for donation of bodies to medical schools is, in most respects, the same as for organ and tissue donation after death (see ‘Organ and tissue donation after death’, above).
Autopsies: Infectious diseases
Under the PHW A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. (s 156), the Chief Health Officer has the power to require a doctor who has appropriate qualifications or experience to carry out an autopsy.
An autopsy may be ordered if the Chief Health Officer believes that an infectious disease caused, may have caused, or contributed to the person’s death; an autopsy is necessary to determine whether there is a serious risk to public health; and the coroner does not have The authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it, based on some factor such as area or law, amount of money claimed, or geographic area. over the body.