What is an autopsy? Will it affect the funeral arrangements?

An autopsy is a medical examination of a decedent and consists of two parts: an external examination and an internal examination. During the external examination, the decedent is first examined as received (including any clothing present), again after removal of clothing, and yet again after being cleaned up. Throughout the examination process, the findings (traumatic injuries, disease states, etc.) are documented. Following the external examination, the decedent is then examined internally, with all organs and tissues examined for the presence of injuries and pre-existing natural disease.

In the course of an autopsy, samples of various organs, tissues, and body fluids are retained for additional studies, if warranted. These studies include toxicology (testing for drugs, etc.), microscopic examination and microbiology (bacterial, viral, or fungal cultures). In addition, other items of evidence may be collected, such as:

  • Bullets
  • Fingernail Clippings
  • Hair
  • Knife Blades
  • Ligatures
  • Sexual Assault Swabs
  • Trace Evidence

Funeral Arrangements

The performance of an autopsy should not affect funeral arrangements. The incisions made during autopsy are easily concealed by a funeral director and are not visible during the funeral visitation. The performance of the autopsy should not delay the funeral under most circumstances.

Show All Answers

1. What determines whether or not an autopsy is necessary?
2. What is an autopsy? Will it affect the funeral arrangements?
3. Will I have to pay for an autopsy?
4. Will the Walworth County Medical Examiner's Office perform an autopsy on a Walworth County death which does not fall within its legal jurisdiction (a "private" autopsy)?