Frequently Asked Questions
What is an autopsy?
Who is most qualified to perform an autopsy?
An autopsy is an invasive examination of a deceased individual for the purpose of determining the cause and manner of death. A complete autopsy entails examination of the external body surface, an internal examination of the chest and abdominal cavities, and cranium (head). A non-forensic autopsy examination can also be limited to certain areas of interest and concern which the family can specify.
Are National Forensic Autopsy and Toxicology Services LLC Pathologists Board Certified?
A board certified pathologist or forensic pathologist are the most fully qualified experts for providing autopsy services. They are physicians who perform autopsies routinely and are specially trained to recognize the anatomic changes brought about by disease and sequelae of injury.
Can anyone request an autopsy?
Yes. National Forensic Autopsy and Toxicology Services LLC pathologists are board certified by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic, clinical, forensic, and/or neuropathology. All have performed thousands of autopsy examinations and are experienced in civil and criminal court testimony.
Additionally, our medical investigators have extensive training in pathology and death investigation along with extensive training in child death investigations and child abuse investigations.
Who can authorize an autopsy?
Any family member or close friend of the deceased may ask for an autopsy, but the autopsy must be properly authorized. Additionally, some autopsy examinations are required by law because they fall under the jurisdiction of a coroner, justice of the peace, or medical examiner.
Who is considered the legal next of kin?
In the case of a private autopsy, only the legal next of kin or an individual with durable power of attorney can authorize an autopsy. A medical examiner, coroner, or justice of the peace may also authorize autopsy examinations when they fall under their jurisdiction.
Is the pathologist providing the autopsy responsible for signing the death certificate?
The legal next of kin is one of the following: parent of a minor child, surviving spouse, oldest adult child (if both parents are deceased or divorced), and oldest adult sibling (if both are parents are deceased).
When does a medical examiner order an autopsy?
No. The attending physician who provided medical services prior to the person's death is responsible for signing the death certificate. In the event the attending physician doesn't sign the death certificate, then the coroner or medical examiner takes jurisdiction. A medical examiner, coroner, or justice of the peace will sign death certificates for cases under their jurisdiction.
In the event of a private autopsy, we can coordinate with the treating physician to either have them sign or have us sign the death certificate with the proper cause of death.
Where are private autopsies performed?
The Coroner, Medical Examiner or Justice of the Peace has authority over cases of sudden, unexpected, violent or traumatic death. The Medical Examiner may also take jurisdiction of cases involving a natural death under certain circumstances. If the deceased has a significant, well-documented medical history, the Medical Examiner will usually release the case and not perform an autopsy. The guidelines may vary by jurisdiction.
Why would I request an autopsy?
Private autopsies can be performed in the funeral home where the body is located or in facility provided by National Forensic Autopsy and Toxicology Services LLC.
Will the hospital where my family member died perform an autopsy?
If not under the jurisdiction of a medical examiner, an autopsy may be recommended. Questions family members may have related to the death can be investigated. An autopsy often discloses information about inheritable diseases that will assist surviving family members with their own healthcare. If medical malpractice or medical neglect is suspected, an autopsy can document the disease process and treatment. We suggest you consult with a National Forensic Autopsy and Toxicology Services LLC medical investigator or pathologist who can help you decide if your questions related to the death can be answered by an autopsy.
Will an autopsy hinder funeral arrangements?
Sometimes the hospital where the patient died will perform an autopsy free of charge to the family or at the request of the doctor treating the patient. However, not all hospitals provide this service. Check with the individual hospital as to their policies.
How much does an autopsy cost?
An autopsy does not interfere with viewing for a funeral. Working with your funeral director, National Forensic Autopsy and Toxicology Services LLC will attempt to schedule the autopsy so as not to interrupt funeral arrangements.
Does insurance pay for an autopsy?
The basic fee is $3,000.00 for a private autopsy when the family wants to know the cause of death and gain valuable information about genetic or inherited diseases. This includes the reviewing of appropriate medical records, microscopic examination and basic medical photography. There are additional fees for specialized diagnostic techniques, consultations, and travel. Special pricing is available for limited autopsy and head only (brain) autopsy services. Contract fees for Coroners and hospitals are negotiable. Contact National Forensic Autopsy and Toxicology Services LLC for further details.
How can one pay for a private autopsy?
No. Private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid do not pay for autopsy examinations.
How soon after death should an autopsy be performed?
We accept cashiers checks, money orders, cash, and credit card payments. If you use a credit card, a 3% processing fee applies to the total amount paid for the private case. Private payment amounts vary based upon the services needed and the total cost of the private autopsy ranges from $2500 on up.
Can an autopsy be performed if the body has been embalmed?
The autopsy should be performed as soon as possible after death to prevent the changes of decomposition from interfering with the examination results. When the deceased is properly cooled, a brief delay of several days generally will not interfere with the autopsy results. The results of some specialized tests may be affected by a delay in the autopsy examination.
When will I get my report of the autopsy findings?
Yes, however, for the best outcome, an autopsy should be performed on an unembalmed body. If there is a long delay (beyond one week) between the time of death and the autopsy, embalming is recommended to preserve the body tissues. For the most part, embalming does not interfere with toxicology testing.
The forensic clinical anatomist, pathologist or epidemiologist who is assigned to your loved ones case is available to discuss case findings with the family throughout the process. The final report, including all histology and toxicology tests (if performed), will be completed and mailed within 90 to 180 days. This is a general time frame as each case is different. When evaluating cases, we must take into consideration additional tests, medical record review, and overall analysis which could delay the report. We try our best to have the final report out within a 90 to 180 day time frame, but we want to ensure a complete and accurate report. This ensures that we look at all aspects of the case and write a clear and accurate case review. Simply forcing the report out when the case analysis hasn't been completed would be unethical and not considered standard practice.