Shortly after the death of someone, a post-mortem examination is carried out (also known as an Autopsy), which is to determine the cause of death . It is a Medical Examination of the person, and carried out for the Coroner by a Home Office Pathologist. He or she makes a very thorough check on all possible causes of death.
The family's permission is not required for a post-mortem examination when ordered by the Coroner. Notice will be given of the need for a post-mortem unless it has to be held very urgently. But the next of kin are entitled to be represented at the examination. If you do this, the Coroner must tell you, if it is reasonably possible to do so, when and where the examination will be made. You can be represented at the examination by a qualified doctor but, you cannot attend the examination yourself unless you are a qualified doctor.
More Than One Post Mortem:
In certain cases, Coroner may allow more than one post-mortem examination to take place. People who might want another examination:
* A Defendant charged with an offence to do with the death. Where there is more than one Defendant, each one may ask for another ‘separate’ examination!
* The family of the deceased ‘loved-one’ may, if they are unhappy with the results of the examination, ask for a further ‘post-mortem’.
However, if you are thinking of asking for a second post-mortem examination you should be aware that not only will have to pay, but it is a very costly examination. Once the deceased person has been released by the Coroner, then you can go ahead and arrange a further post-mortem. Second and subsequent post-mortems requested by Lawyers acting for the Defendant(s) will also delay matters, sometimes for long periods before a Funeral can proceed.
Post Mortem Report:
This report gives details of the examination and will, in the majority of cases, denote the cause of death. It may also give details of any laboratory tests which have been carried out. Copies of the report will normally be available to the next of kin and to certain other relatives. A fee may be payable, but the Coroner may allow you to inspect the report - you would not have to pay for this. The Coroner's Office would tell you if you can see the report, or you may find it more helpful to ask your GP to speak with the Coroner for you.
Almost every post-mortem examination involves the taking of small tissue samples referred to as tissue blocks and these are less than a quarter of an inch thick and are embedded in wax or resin. From then very thin slices are taken - 10 times thinner than a human hair. These slices are placed on glass slides and examined under the microscope. These slides are an essential tool in reaching a diagnosis. In some cases it may be necessary to remove whole organs and retain them for an unspecified period - in order that a proper diagnosis can be made.
Organs, tissue-blocks and slides retained at post-mortem examinations can be used for medical research and medical education. This research may benefit the individual family as well as wider benefits and advances in knowledge of the Heart and Brain diseases relay to a large extent on the availability of these organs, from post-mortem examinations. Complicated abnormalities of the Heart in particular are studied to enable Surgeons to deal with these difficult cases in the future, with a greater understanding. In cases where families have found out much later after a post-mortem that organs had been kept, and the distress this provoked has now resulted in new approach has been adopted.
Arrangements are now in place to tell the families where possible that a post-mortem examination may take place and that it may then be necessary to remove and retain organs for further tests. Unless the family has objected to receiving information about the post-mortem examination they will be informed when an organ has been retained. If the organ has been retained until after the funeral has taken place, you will have the option to choose how this will be handled, following the release of the organ.
The Hospital will take your wishes into account when this happens and if the organ(s) are returned to you there are several options and a separate and further ceremony to reunite the organs with the loved-one in a separate casket. Your Funeral Director will advise you on how this can take place.
Your Family Liaison Officer will also answer your questions...information regarding Organ/Tissue transplation can be found in the 'Family Liaison Officer' section - (see link below)