An autopsy (post-mortem examination, obduction, necropsy, or autopsia cadaverum) is a surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse by dissection to determine the cause, mode and manner of death or to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present for research or educational purposes. (The term "necropsy" is generally reserved for non-human animals; see below). Autopsies are usually performed by a specialized medical doctor called a pathologist. In most cases, a medical examiner or coroner can determine cause of death and only a small portion of deaths require an autopsy.

Rembrandt - The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, (1632) by Rembrandt, depicts an autopsy.


Autopsies are performed for either legal or medical purposes.

Medicolegal Autopsy is performed under these conditions

Determine if death was natural or unnatural, Injury source and extent on the corpse , Manner of death must be determined, Time Since Death, Establish Identity of Diseased , Retain Relevant Organs, If infant determine livebirth and viability.

For example, a forensic autopsy is carried out when the cause of death may be a criminal matter, while a clinical or academic autopsy is performed to find the medical cause of death and is used in cases of unknown or uncertain death, or for research purposes. Autopsies can be further classified into cases where external examination suffices, and those where the body is dissected and internal examination is conducted. Permission from next of kin may be required for internal autopsy in some cases. Once an internal autopsy is complete the body is reconstituted by sewing it back together.

Etymology of the word 'Autopsy'

The term "autopsy" derives from the Ancient Greek αὐτοψία autopsia, "to see for oneself", derived from αὐτός (autos, "oneself") and ὄψις (opsis, "sight, view").[1] The word “autopsy” has been used since around the 17th century, it refers to the examination of inside the dead human body to discover diseases and cause of death.[2]


The principal aims of an autopsy is to determine the cause of death, mode of death , manner of death the state of health of the person before he or she died, and whether any medical diagnosis and treatment before death was appropriate.

In most Western countries the number of autopsies performed in hospitals has been decreasing every year since 1955. Critics, including pathologist and former JAMA editor George D. Lundberg, have charged that the reduction in autopsies is negatively affecting the care delivered in hospitals, because when mistakes result in death, they are often not investigated and lessons therefore remain unlearned.

When a person has given permission in advance of their death, autopsies may also be carried out for the purposes of teaching or medical research.

An autopsy is frequently performed in cases of sudden death, where a doctor is not able to write a death certificate, or when death is believed to result from an unnatural cause. These examinations are performed under a legal authority (Medical Examiner or Coroner or Procurator Fiscal) and do not require the consent of relatives of the deceased. The most extreme example is the examination of murder victims, especially when medical examiners are looking for signs of death or the murder method, such as bullet wounds and exit points, signs of strangulation, or traces of poison. Some religions including Judaism and Islam usually discourage the performing of autopsies on their adherents.[3] Organizations such as ZAKA in Israel and Misaskim in the United States generally guide families how to ensure that an unnecessary autopsy is not made. Also in the Filipino culture autopsies are taboo.

Autopsies are used in clinical medicine to identify medical error, or a previously unnoticed condition that may endanger the living, such as infectious diseases or exposure to hazardous materials[4].

A study that focused on myocardial infarction (heart attack) as a cause of death found significant errors of omission and commission,[5] i.e. a sizable number cases ascribed to myocardial infarctions (MIs) were not MIs and a significant number of non-MIs were actually MIs.

A systematic review of studies of the autopsy calculated that in about 25% of autopsies a major diagnostic error will be revealed.[6] However, this rate has decreased over time and the study projects that in a contemporary US institution, 8.4% to 24.4% of autopsies will detect major diagnostic errors.

A large meta-analysis suggested that approximately one-third of death certificates are incorrect and that half of the autopsies performed produced findings that were not suspected before the person died.[7] Also, it is thought that over one fifth of unexpected findings can only be diagnosed histologically, i.e., by biopsy or autopsy, and that approximately one quarter of unexpected findings, or 5% of all findings, are major and can similarly only be diagnosed from tissue.

One study found that (out of 694 diagnoses) "Autopsies revealed 171 missed diagnoses, including 21 cancers, 12 strokes, 11 myocardial infarctions, 10 pulmonary emboli, and 9 endocarditis, among others".[8]

Focusing on intubated patients, one study found "abdominal pathologic conditions — abscesses, bowel perforations, or infarction — were as frequent as pulmonary emboli as a cause of class I errors. While patients with abdominal pathologic conditions generally complained of abdominal pain, results of examination of the abdomen were considered unremarkable in most patients, and the symptom was not pursued".[9]


There are four main types of autopsies:[10]

  • Medico-Legal Autopsy or Forensic or coroner's autopsies seek to find the cause and manner of death and to identify the decedent.[10] They are generally performed, as prescribed by applicable law, in cases of violent, suspicious or sudden deaths, deaths without medical assistance or during surgical procedures.[10]
  • Clinical or Pathological autopsies are performed to diagnose a particular disease or for research purposes. They aim to determine, clarify, or confirm medical diagnoses that remained unknown or unclear prior to the patient's death.[10]
  • Anatomical or academic autopsies are performed by students of anatomy for study purpose only.
  • Virtual or medical imaging autopsies are performed utilizing imaging technology only, primarily magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).[11]

Forensic autopsy

Autopsy room of the Charité Berlin

A forensic autopsy is used to determine the cause, mode and manner of death.

Forensic science involves the application of the sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system.

Medical examiners attempt to determine the time of death, the exact cause of death, and what, if anything, preceded the death, such as a struggle. A forensic autopsy may include obtaining biological specimens from the deceased for toxicological testing, including stomach contents. Toxicology tests may reveal the presence of one or more chemical "poisons" (all chemicals, in sufficient quantities, can be classified as a poison) and their quantity. Because post-mortem deterioration of the body, together with the gravitational pooling of bodily fluids, will necessarily alter the bodily environment, toxicology tests may overestimate, rather than underestimate, the quantity of the suspected chemical.[12]

Following an in-depth examination of all the evidence, a medical examiner or coroner will assign one of the manners of death provided for in the fact-finder's jurisdiction and will detail the evidence on the mechanism of the death.

United States

In most United States jurisdictions, each death is categorized as taking place in one of five "manners of death":

  • Natural
  • Accident, including both a) deaths resulting from a risk that is either reasonable or neither deliberately assumed nor intentionally created by another person and b) deaths resulting from deliberate assumption of unreasonable risk. (Contrast the definition of "accident" used in England and Wales)
  • Homicide
  • Suicide
  • Undetermined

Most states require the state medical examiner to complete an autopsy report, and many mandate that the autopsy be videotaped.

England and Wales

Inquests may declare a death is caused by, among other verdicts:

Other jurisdictions

Some jurisdictions place deaths in absentia, such as deaths at sea and missing persons declared dead in a court of law, in the "Undetermined" category on the grounds that due to the fact-finder's lack of ability to examine the body, the examiner has no personal knowledge of the manner of (assumed) death; others classify such deaths in an additional category "Other," reserving "Undetermined" for deaths in which the fact-finder has access to the body, but the information provided by the body and examination of it is insufficient to provide sufficient grounds for a determination.

Clinical autopsy

Human dissection of the abdominal and toraxic organs
Pathologist performing a human dissection of the abdominal and thoracic organs in an autopsy room.

Clinical autopsies serve two major purposes. They are performed to gain more insight into pathological processes and determine what factors contributed to a patient's death. Autopsies are also performed to ensure the standard of care at hospitals. Autopsies can yield insight into how patient deaths can be prevented in the future.

Within the United Kingdom, clinical autopsies can be carried out only with the consent of the family of the deceased person, as opposed to a medico-legal autopsy instructed by a Coroner (England & Wales) or Procurator Fiscal (Scotland) to which the family cannot object.

Over time, autopsies have not only been able to determine the cause of death, but also lead to discoveries of various diseases such as fetal alcohol syndrome, Legionnaire's disease, and even viral hepatitis.[13]


In 2004 in England and Wales, there were 514,000 deaths of which 225,500 were referred to the coroner. Of those, 115,800 (22.5% of all deaths) resulted in post-mortem examinations and there were 28,300 inquests, 570 with a jury.[14]

The rate of consented (hospital) autopsy in the UK and worldwide has declined rapidly over the past 50 years. In the UK in 2013 only 0.7% of inpatient adult deaths were followed by consented autopsy.[15]

In the United States, autopsy rates fell from 17% in 1980[16] to 14% in 1985[16] and 11.5% in 1989,[17] although the figures vary notably from county to county.[18]


Cadaver dissection table - long shot
Cadaver dissection table similar to those used in medical or forensic autopsies.

The body is received at a medical examiner's office, municipal mortuary, or hospital in a body bag or evidence sheet. A new body bag is used for each body to ensure that only evidence from that body is contained within the bag. Evidence sheets are an alternative way to transport the body. An evidence sheet is a sterile sheet that covers the body when it is moved. If it is believed there may be any significant evidence on the hands, for example, gunshot residue or skin under the fingernails, a separate paper sack is put around each hand and taped shut around the wrist.

There are two parts to the physical examination of the body: the external and internal examination. Toxicology, biochemical tests or genetic testing/molecular autopsy often supplement these and frequently assist the pathologist in assigning the cause or causes of death.

External examination

At many institutions the person responsible for handling, cleaning, and moving the body is called a diener, the German word for servant. In the UK this role is performed by an Anatomical Pathology Technician (APT), who will also assist the pathologist in eviscerating the body and reconstruction after the autopsy. After the body is received, it is first photographed. The examiner then notes the kind of clothes and their position on the body before they are removed. Next, any evidence such as residue, flakes of paint or other material is collected from the external surfaces of the body. Ultraviolet light may also be used to search body surfaces for any evidence not easily visible to the naked eye. Samples of hair, nails and the like are taken, and the body may also be radiographically imaged. Once the external evidence is collected, the body is removed from the bag, undressed, and any wounds present are examined. The body is then cleaned, weighed, and measured in preparation for the internal examination.

A general description of the body as regards ethnic group, sex, age, hair colour and length, eye colour and other distinguishing features (birthmarks, old scar tissue, moles, tattoos, etc.) is then made. A voice recorder or a standard examination form is normally used to record this information.

In some countries, e.g., Scotland, France, Germany, and Canada, an autopsy may comprise an external examination only. This concept is sometimes termed a "view and grant". The principle behind this is that the medical records, history of the deceased and circumstances of death have all indicated as to the cause and manner of death without the need for an internal examination.[19]

Internal examination

If not already in place, a plastic or rubber brick called a "head block" is placed under the shoulders of the deceased, hyperflexing the neck making the spine arch backward while stretching and pushing the chest upward to make it easier to incise. This gives the APT, or pathologist, maximum exposure to the trunk. After this is done, the internal examination begins. The internal examination consists of inspecting the internal organs of the body by dissection for evidence of trauma or other indications of the cause of death. For the internal examination there are a number of different approaches available:

  • a large and deep Y-shaped incision can be made starting at the top of each shoulder and running down the front of the chest, meeting at the lower point of the sternum (breastbone).
  • a curved incision made from the tips of each shoulder, in a semi-circular line across the chest/decolletage, to approximately the level of the second rib, curving back up to the opposite shoulder.
  • a single vertical incision is made from the sternal notch at the base of the neck.
  • a U-shaped incision is made at the tip of both shoulders, down along the side of the chest to the bottom of the rib cage, following along it. This is typically used on women and during chest-only autopsies.

There is no need for any incision to be made, which will be visible after completion of the examination when the deceased is dressed in a shroud. In all of the above cases the incision then extends all the way down to the pubic bone (making a deviation to either side of the navel) and avoiding, where possible; transsecting any scars which may be present.

Bleeding from the cuts is minimal, or non-existent, because the pull of gravity is producing the only blood pressure at this point, related directly to the complete lack of cardiac functionality. However, in certain cases there is anecdotal evidence that bleeding can be quite profuse, especially in cases of drowning.

At this point, shears are used to open the chest cavity. The prosector uses the tool to cut through the ribs on the costal cartilage, to allow the sternum to be removed; this is done so that the heart and lungs can be seen in situ and that the heart, in particular the pericardial sac is not damaged or disturbed from opening. A PM 40 knife is used to remove the sternum from the soft tissue which attaches it to the mediastinum. Now the lungs and the heart are exposed. The sternum is set aside and will be eventually replaced at the end of the autopsy.

At this stage the organs are exposed. Usually, the organs are removed in a systematic fashion. Making a decision as to what order the organs are to be removed will depend highly on the case in question. Organs can be removed in several ways: The first is the en masse technique of Letulle whereby all the organs are removed as one large mass. The second is the en bloc method of Ghon. The most popular in the UK is a modified version of this method, which is divided into four groups of organs. Although these are the two predominant evisceration techniques, in the UK variations on these are widespread.

One method is described here: The pericardial sac is opened to view the heart. Blood for chemical analysis may be removed from the inferior vena cava or the pulmonary veins. Before removing the heart, the pulmonary artery is opened in order to search for a blood clot. The heart can then be removed by cutting the inferior vena cava, the pulmonary veins, the aorta and pulmonary artery, and the superior vena cava. This method leaves the aortic arch intact, which will make things easier for the embalmer. The left lung is then easily accessible and can be removed by cutting the bronchus, artery, and vein at the hilum. The right lung can then be similarly removed. The abdominal organs can be removed one by one after first examining their relationships and vessels.

Most pathologists, however, prefer the organs to be removed all in one "block". Using dissection of the fascia, blunt dissection; using the fingers or hands and traction; the organs are dissected out in one piece for further inspection and sampling. During autopsies of infants, this method is used almost all of the time. The various organs are examined, weighed and tissue samples in the form of slices are taken. Even major blood vessels are cut open and inspected at this stage. Next the stomach and intestinal contents are examined and weighed. This could be useful to find the cause and time of death, due to the natural passage of food through the bowel during digestion. The more area empty, the longer the deceased had gone without a meal before death.

Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis, gross pathology 33 lores
A brain autopsy demonstrating signs of meningitis. The forceps (center) are retracting the dura mater (white). Underneath the dura mater are the leptomeninges, which appear to be edematous and have multiple small hemorrhagic foci.

The body block that was used earlier to elevate the chest cavity is now used to elevate the head. To examine the brain, an incision is made from behind one ear, over the crown of the head, to a point behind the other ear. When the autopsy is completed, the incision can be neatly sewn up and is not noticed when the head is resting on a pillow in an open casket funeral. The scalp is pulled away from the skull in two flaps with the front flap going over the face and the rear flap over the back of the neck. The skull is then cut with a circular (or semicircular) bladed reciprocating saw to create a "cap" that can be pulled off, exposing the brain. The brain is then observed in situ. Then the brain's connection to the cranial nerves and spinal cord are severed, and the brain is lifted out of the skull for further examination. If the brain needs to be preserved before being inspected, it is contained in a large container of formalin (15 percent solution of formaldehyde gas in buffered water) for at least two, but preferably four weeks. This not only preserves the brain, but also makes it firmer, allowing easier handling without corrupting the tissue.

Reconstitution of the body

An important component of the autopsy is the reconstitution of the body such that it can be viewed, if desired, by relatives of the deceased following the procedure. After the examination, the body has an open and empty thoracic cavity with chest flaps open on both sides, the top of the skull is missing, and the skull flaps are pulled over the face and neck. It is unusual to examine the face, arms, hands or legs internally.

In the UK, following the Human Tissue Act 2004 all organs and tissue must be returned to the body unless permission is given by the family to retain any tissue for further investigation. Normally the internal body cavity is lined with cotton, wool, or a similar material, and the organs are then placed into a plastic bag to prevent leakage and are returned to the body cavity. The chest flaps are then closed and sewn back together and the skull cap is sewed back in place. Then the body may be wrapped in a shroud, and it is common for relatives to not be able to tell the procedure has been done when the body is viewed in a funeral parlor after embalming.


3492769920 f48c41bdc8 bDissection19
Dissection, 19th century US.

Around 3000 BC ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to practice the removal and examination of the internal organs of humans in the religious practice of mummification.[1][20]

Autopsies that opened the body to determine the cause of death were attested at least in the early third millennium BC, although they were opposed in many ancient societies where it was believed that the outward disfigurement of dead persons prevented them from entering the afterlife[21] (as with the Egyptians, who removed the organs through tiny slits in the body).[1] Notable Greek autopsists were Galen (AD 129- c. 200/ 216),[22] Erasistratus and Herophilus of Chalcedon, who lived in 3rd century BC Alexandria, but in general, autopsies were rare in ancient Greece.[21] In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was the subject of an official autopsy after his murder by rival senators, the physician's report noting that the second stab wound Caesar received was the fatal one.[21] Julius Caesar had been stabbed a total of 23 times.[23] By around 150 BC, ancient Roman legal practice had established clear parameters for autopsies.[1]

Enrique Simonet - La autopsia 1890
Autopsy (1890) by Enrique Simonet.

The dissection of human remains for medical or scientific reasons continued to be practiced irregularly after the Romans, for instance by the Arab physicians Avenzoar and Ibn al-Nafis. In Europe they were done with enough regularity to become skilled, as early as 1200, and successful efforts to preserve the body, by filling the veins with wax and metals.[22] Until the 20th century,[22] it was thought that the modern autopsy process derived from the anatomists of the Renaissance. Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682–1771), celebrated as the father of anatomical pathology,[24] wrote the first exhaustive work on pathology, De Sedibus et Causis Morborum per Anatomen Indagatis (The Seats and Causes of Diseases Investigated by Anatomy, 1769).[1]

In the mid-1800s, Carl von Rokitansky and colleagues at the Second Vienna Medical School began to undertake dissections as a means to improve diagnostic medicine.[23]

In 1543 Andreas Vesalius conducted a public dissection of the body of a former criminal. He asserted and articulated the bones, this became the worlds oldest surviving anatomical preparation. It is still displayed at the Anatomical museum at the University of Basel.[25]

The 19th-century medical researcher Rudolf Virchow, in response to a lack of standardization of autopsy procedures, established and published specific autopsy protocols (one such protocol still bears his name). He also developed the concept of pathological processes.

Other animals (necropsy)

Enzootic pneumonia ewe
A field post-mortem exam of a ewe.

Post-mortem examination, or necropsy, is far more common in veterinary medicine than in human medicine. For many species that exhibit few external symptoms (sheep), or that are not suited to detailed clinical examination (poultry, cage birds, zoo animals), it is a common method used by veterinary physicians to come to a diagnosis. A necropsy is mostly used like an autopsy to determine cause of death. The entire body is examined at the gross visual level, and samples are collected for additional analyses.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Rothenberg, Kelly (2008). "The Autopsy Through History". In Ayn Embar-seddon, Allan D. Pass. Forensic Science. Salem Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-58765-423-7.
  2. ^ Clark MJ (2005). "Historical Keyword "autopsy"". Lancet. 366 (9499): 1767. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67715-X. PMID 16298206.
  3. ^ Elizabeth C Burton, Kim A Collins. Religions and the Autopsy, EMedicine. Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  4. ^ Michael Tsokos, "Die Klaviatur des Todes", Knaur, Munich, 2013, pp. 179-189
  5. ^ Ravakhah K (2006). "Death certificates are not reliable: revivification of the autopsy". South. Med. J. 99 (7): 728–33. doi:10.1097/01.smj.0000224337.77074.57. PMID 16866055.
  6. ^ Shojania KG, Burton EC, McDonald KM, Goldman L (2003). "Changes in rates of autopsy-detected diagnostic errors over time: a systematic review". JAMA. 289 (21): 2849–56. doi:10.1001/jama.289.21.2849. PMID 12783916.
  7. ^ Roulson J, Benbow EW, Hasleton PS (2005). "Discrepancies between clinical and autopsy diagnosis and the value of post mortem histology; a meta-analysis and review". Histopathology. 47 (6): 551–9. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2559.2005.02243.x. PMID 16324191.
  8. ^ Combes A, Mokhtari M, Couvelard A, Trouillet JL, Baudot J, Hénin D, Gibert C, Chastre J (2004). "Clinical and autopsy diagnoses in the intensive care unit: a prospective study". Arch. Intern. Med. 164 (4): 389–92. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.4.389. PMID 14980989.
  9. ^ Papadakis MA, Mangione CM, Lee KK, Kristof M (1991). "Treatable abdominal pathologic conditions and unsuspected malignant neoplasms at autopsy in veterans who received mechanical ventilation" (Submitted manuscript). JAMA. 265 (7): 885–7. doi:10.1001/jama.265.7.885. PMID 1992186.
  10. ^ a b c d Strasser, Russell S. (2008). "Autopsies". In Ayn Embar-seddon, Allan D. Pass. Forensic Science. Salem Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-58765-423-7.
  11. ^ Roberts IS, Benamore RE, Benbow EW, Lee SH, Harris JN, Jackson A, Mallett S, Patankar T, Peebles C, Roobottom C, Traill ZC (2012). "Post-mortem imaging as an alternative to autopsy in the diagnosis of adult deaths: A validation study". The Lancet. 379 (9811): 136–142. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61483-9. PMC 3262166. PMID 22112684.
  12. ^ Mahoney Criminal Defense Group
  13. ^ Society, New England Anti-Vivisection. "In Research | Alternatives to Animals in Science". Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  14. ^ UK Department for Constitutional Affairs (2006), Coroners Service Reform Briefing Note Archived 2008-11-06 at the Wayback Machine, p. 6
  15. ^ Turnbull A.J.; Osborn M.; Nicholas N. (June 2015). "Hospital Autopsy: endangered or extinct?". ClinPath. 68 (8): 601–4. doi:10.1136/jclinpath-2014-202700. PMC 4518760. PMID 26076965.
  16. ^ a b Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1988) , Current Trends Autopsy Frequency — United States, 1980–1985, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 37(12);191-4
  17. ^ Pollock DA, O'Neil JM, Parrish RG, Combs DL, Annest JL (1993). "Temporal and geographic trends in the autopsy frequency of blunt and penetrating trauma deaths in the United States". JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 269 (12): 1525–31. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500120063027. PMID 8445815.
  18. ^ "Products - Data Briefs - Number 67 - August 2011". Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  19. ^ St Andrew's House (18 July 2007). "Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland - Death Cases: A Thematic Report on Liaison in Death Cases with Particular Reference to Organ Retention". Scottish Government.
  20. ^ "Medicine". Archived from the original on 9 March 2011.
  21. ^ a b c Schafer, Elizabeth D. (2008). "Ancient science and forensics". In Ayn Embar-seddon, Allan D. Pass. Forensic Science. Salem Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-58765-423-7.
  22. ^ a b c Pappas, Stephanie (5 March 2013). "Grotesque Mummy Head Reveals Advanced Medieval Science". Live Science. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b Bryant, Clifton. Handbook of Death and Dying. California: Sage Publications, Inc, 2003. Print. ISBN 0-7619-2514-7
  24. ^ Battista Morgagni -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  25. ^ "The Fabric of the human body". Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  26. ^ "Necropsy | University Animal Care". Retrieved 2017-02-06.

External links

Alien autopsy

The alien autopsy is a 17-minute black and white film depicting a secret medical examination or autopsy of a purported extraterrestrial being, or alien, by the American military. It was released in 1995 by London-based entrepreneur Ray Santilli. He presented it as an authentic autopsy on the body of an alien recovered from the 1947 crash of a "flying disc" near Roswell, New Mexico. The film footage was allegedly supplied to him by a retired military cameraman who wished to remain anonymous.In 2006 Santilli admitted the film was not authentic but rather a staged reconstruction of footage he claimed to have viewed in 1992, but which had deteriorated and become unusable by the time he made his film. He claimed that a few frames from the original were embedded in his film, but he never specified which ones. The existence of an original filmstrip of the alleged autopsy has never been independently verified.

Autopsy (House)

"Autopsy" is the second episode of the second season of House, which premiered on the Fox network on September 20, 2005. House and team struggle to diagnose a young girl whose cancer is not causing her more immediate symptoms.

Autopsy (TV series)

Autopsy is a television series of HBO's America Undercover documentary series. Dr. Michael Baden, a real-life forensic pathologist, is the primary analyst, and has been personally involved in many of the cases that are reviewed.

Autopsy (band)

Autopsy is a death metal band, founded in 1987 in the United States by Chris Reifert and Eric Cutler. They disbanded in 1995, but reunited in 2009.

Dakota (fossil)

Dakota is the nickname given to a fossil Edmontosaurus annectens found in the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota. It is about 67 million years old, placing it in the Maastrichtian, the last stage of the Cretaceous period. It was about 11 m (35 ft) long and weighed about 3.5 tons.The fossil is unusual and scientifically valuable because soft tissue including skin and muscle have been fossilized, giving researchers the rare opportunity to study more than bones, as with most vertebrate fossils. Preliminary research results indicate that hadrosaurs had heavier tails and were able to run faster than was previously thought.


Death is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include aging, predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and accidents or major trauma resulting in terminal injury. In most cases, bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death.Death – particularly the death of humans – has commonly been considered a sad or unpleasant occasion, due to the affection for the being that has died and the termination of social and familial bonds with the deceased. Other concerns include fear of death, necrophobia, anxiety, sorrow, grief, emotional pain, depression, sympathy, compassion, solitude, or saudade. Many cultures and religions have the idea of an afterlife, and also hold the idea of reward or judgement and punishment for past sin.

Death of Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt was an American race car driver who gained worldwide fame as a stock car driver for NASCAR, recording seven Winston Cup championship victories and 76 career wins, including the 1998 Daytona 500. He was killed in a final-lap collision in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2001, in which he crashed into the retaining wall after making contact with Sterling Marlin and Ken Schrader. Earnhardt's death was officially pronounced at the nearby Halifax Medical Center at 5:16 p.m. EST (22:16 UTC), although he likely died immediately upon impact. He was 49 years old. His funeral was held four days later at the Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Earnhardt was the fourth NASCAR driver killed by a basilar skull fracture during a eight-month span, following Adam Petty in May of 2000, Kenny Irwin, Jr. in July of 2000, and Tony Roper in October of 2000. Earnhardt's death, seen on a live television audience with over 17 million viewers, was highly publicized and resulted in various safety improvements in NASCAR auto racing.After Earnhardt's death, NASCAR began an intensive focus on safety that has seen the organization mandate the use of head-and-neck restraints, oversee the installation of SAFER barriers at oval tracks, set rigorous new inspection rules for seats and seat-belts, develop a roof-hatch escape system, and the Car of Tomorrow—which eventually led to the development of a next-generation race car built with extra driver safety in mind. Since Earnhardt's death, no Cup series driver has died during competition.


Dissection (from Latin dissecare "to cut to pieces"; also called anatomization) is the dismembering of the body of a deceased animal or plant to study its anatomical structure. Autopsy is used in pathology and forensic medicine to determine the cause of death in humans. Less extensive dissection of plants and smaller animals preserved in a formaldehyde solution is typically carried out or demonstrated in biology and natural science classes in middle school and high school, while extensive dissections of cadavers of adults and children, both fresh and preserved are carried out by medical students in medical schools as a part of the teaching in subjects such as anatomy, pathology and forensic medicine. Consequently, dissection is typically conducted in a morgue or in an anatomy lab.

Dissection has been used for centuries to explore anatomy. Objections to the use of cadavers have led to the use of alternatives including virtual dissection of computer models.

Fit for an Autopsy

Fit for an Autopsy is an American deathcore band from Jersey City, New Jersey, formed in 2008. The band consists of guitarists Will Putney, Pat Sheridan and Tim Howley, drummer Josean Orta, lead vocalist Joe Badolato, and bassist Peter "Blue" Spinazola. Fit for an Autopsy is currently signed to Nuclear Blast Records and has released four studio albums since formation.

Health and appearance of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer who spent over four decades in the public eye, first as a child star with the Jackson 5 and later as a solo artist. From the mid-1980s, Jackson's appearance began to change dramatically. The shape of his face, particularly his nose, triggered widespread speculation of extensive cosmetic surgery. His skin tone became much lighter. Although Jackson was diagnosed with the skin disorder vitiligo, which results in white patches on the skin, and said that he had not purposely bleached his skin but had used makeup to even out his skin tone, it was widely suggested that his lighter skin tone was partly due to skin bleaching. After Jackson died, his autopsy confirmed that he had vitiligo.

Jackson and some of his siblings said they had been physically and psychologically abused by their father, Joseph Jackson. In 2003, Joseph admitted to whipping them as children, but emphatically rejected the longstanding abuse allegations. The whippings deeply traumatized Jackson and may have led to the onset of further health problems later in his life. Physicians speculated that he had body dysmorphic disorder.At some point during the 1990s, it appeared that Jackson had become dependent on prescription drugs, mainly painkillers and strong sedatives. The drug use was later linked to second- and third-degree burns he had suffered years before. Jackson gradually became dependent on these drugs and his health deteriorated. He went into rehabilitation in 1993.While preparing for a series of comeback concerts scheduled to begin in July 2009, Jackson died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication after suffering cardiac arrest on June 25, 2009. His personal physician was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in his death and sentenced to four years in prison.

John F. Kennedy autopsy

The autopsy of President John F. Kennedy was performed, beginning at about 8 p.m. EST November 22, 1963, on the day of his assassination and ending at about 12:30 AM EST November 23, 1963, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. The choice of autopsy hospital in the Washington, D.C. area was made by his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy. She chose the Bethesda Naval Hospital because President Kennedy had been a naval officer.

Lisa McPherson

Lisa McPherson (February 10, 1959 – December 5, 1995) was an American member of the Church of Scientology who died of a pulmonary embolism while under the care of the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc. Following the report of the state of Florida's medical examiner that indicated that Lisa was a victim of negligent homicide, the Church of Scientology was indicted on two felony charges, "abuse and/or neglect of a disabled adult" and "practicing medicine without a license." The charges against the Church of Scientology were dropped after the state's medical examiner changed the cause of death from "undetermined" to an "accident" on June 13, 2000. A civil suit brought by her family against the Church was settled on May 28, 2004.


A morgue or mortuary (in a hospital or elsewhere) is used for the storage of human corpses awaiting identification or removal for autopsy or respectful burial, cremation or other method. In modern times corpses have customarily been refrigerated to delay decomposition.


Pathology (from the Ancient Greek roots of pathos (πάθος), meaning "experience" or "suffering" and -logia (-λογία), "study of") is concerned mainly with the causal study of disease.

The word pathology itself may be used broadly to refer to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices. However, when used in the context of modern medical treatment, the term is often used in a more narrow fashion to refer to processes and tests which fall within the contemporary medical field of "general pathology," an area which includes a number of distinct but inter-related medical specialties that diagnose disease, mostly through analysis of tissue, cell, and body fluid samples. Idiomatically, "a pathology" may also refer to the predicted or actual progression of particular diseases (as in the statement "the many different forms of cancer have diverse pathologies"), and the affix path is sometimes used to indicate a state of disease in cases of both physical ailment (as in cardiomyopathy) and psychological conditions (such as psychopathy). A physician practicing pathology is called a pathologist.

As a field of general inquiry and research, pathology addresses four components of disease: cause, mechanisms of development (pathogenesis), structural alterations of cells (morphologic changes), and the consequences of changes (clinical manifestations). In common medical practice, general pathology is mostly concerned with analyzing known clinical abnormalities that are markers or precursors for both infectious and non-infectious disease and is conducted by experts in one of two major specialties, anatomical pathology and clinical pathology. Further divisions in specialty exist on the basis of the involved sample types (comparing, for example, cytopathology, hematopathology, and histopathology), organs (as in renal pathology), and physiological systems (oral pathology), as well as on the basis of the focus of the examination (as with forensic pathology).

Pathology is a significant field in modern medical diagnosis and medical research.

Prehistoric Autopsy

Prehistoric Autopsy is a 2012 British television documentary film series shown in three one-hour episodes on BBC Two. The series is about human evolution and is narrated by biologist George McGavin and anatomist Alice Roberts. Graeme Thomson is the series producer and Jane Aldous is the executive producer.

Rudolf Virchow

Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow (; German: [ˈfɪɐ̯ço] or German: [ˈvɪɐ̯ço]; 13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) was a German physician, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician. He is known as "the father of modern pathology" and as the founder of social medicine and zoology, and to his colleagues, the "Pope of medicine". He received the Copley Medal in 1892. He was a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences, but he declined to be ennobled as "von Virchow".

Virchow studied medicine at the Friedrich-Wilhelms Institute under Johannes Peter Müller. He worked at the Charité hospital under Robert Froriep, whom he succeeded as the prosector. His investigation of the 1847–1848 typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia laid the foundation for public health in Germany, and paved his political and social careers. From it, he coined a well known aphorism: "Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale". He participated in the Revolution of 1848, which led to his expulsion from Charité the next year. He then published a newspaper Die medicinische Reform (Medical Reform). He took the first Chair of Pathological Anatomy at the University of Würzburg in 1849. After five years, Charité reinstated him to its new Institute for Pathology. He cofounded the political party Deutsche Fortschrittspartei, and was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives, and won a seat in the Reichstag. His opposition to Otto von Bismarck's financial policy resulted in an anecdotal "Sausage Duel", although he supported Bismarck in his anti-Catholic campaigns, which he named Kulturkampf ("culture struggle").A prolific writer, his scientific writings alone exceeded 2,000. Cellular Pathology (1858), regarded as the root of modern pathology, introduced the third dictum in cell theory: Omnis cellula e cellula ("All cells come from cells"). He was a co-founder Physikalisch-Medizinische Gesselschaft in 1849 and Deutsche Pathologische Gesellschaft in 1897. He founded journals such as Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medicin (with Benno Reinhardt in 1847, from 1903 under the title Virchows Archiv), and Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (Journal of Ethnology). The latter is published by German Anthropological Association and the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory, the societies which he also founded.Virchow was the first to describe and christen diseases such as leukemia, chordoma, ochronosis, embolism, and thrombosis. He coined medical names such as "chromatin", "neuroglia", "agenesis", "parenchyma", "osteoid", "amyloid degeneration", and "spina bifida"; terms such as Virchow's node, Virchow–Robin spaces, Virchow–Seckel syndrome, and Virchow's triad are named after him. His description of the life cycle of a roundworm Trichinella spiralis influenced the pratice of meat inspection. He developed the first systematic method of autopsy, and he was the first to use hair analysis in forensic investigation. He was critical of what he described as "Nordic mysticism" regarding the Aryan race. As an anti-evolutionist, he called Charles Darwin an "ignoramus" and his own student Ernst Haeckel a "fool". He described the original specimen of Neanderthal man as nothing but that of a deformed human.


A stabbing is penetration with a sharp or pointed object at close range. Stab connotes purposeful action, as by an assassin or murderer, but it is also possible to accidentally stab oneself or others. Stabbing differs from slashing or cutting in that the motion of the object used in a stabbing generally moves perpendicular to and directly into the victim's body, rather than being drawn across it.

Stabbings today are common among gangs and in prisons because knives are cheap, easy to acquire (or manufacture), easily concealable and relatively effective. In 2013 about 8 million stabbings occurred.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a 2016 supernatural horror film directed by André Øvredal. It stars Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as father-and-son coroners who experience supernatural phenomena while examining the body of an unidentified woman (hence named Jane Doe) (played by Olwen Kelly). It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2016, and was released on December 21. It is Øvredal's first English-language film.

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