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Why Perform an Autopsy?

 
An autopsy is a procedure where a pathologist performs a complete physical examination of a deceased person, including examination of the internal organs such as lung, liver, etc. When a person dies in a hospital, the physician caring for the patient will ask the patient's family for permission to perform an autopsy. A family can also arrange for an autopsy to be performed by pathologists at a particular hospital if they prefer, no matter where the patient dies.

One reason to ask for an autopsy is to determine why a person died. However, sometimes the reason for the patient's death is clear to everyone but there are other questions left unanswered. Perhaps the person was receiving treatment for cancer and it is unclear how well the treatment was fighting the cancer. An examination of the organs involved by the cancer can often provide this information. This information is then conveyed to the patient's physician and may impact how such patients with similar cancers are treated in the future.

Another situation where an autopsy can be helpful is to determine whether the patient suffered from any diseases that might be hereditary and pose a risk to other present and future family members. This is particularly important in cases where an infant is stillborn or dies and answers might impact the parents’ future childbearing.

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