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Autopsies can reveal important information

It may be fairly surmised that the cause of death is accurately known in most cases, and only rarely a medical mystery. So, if there is no medical mystery as to the cause of your loved one’s death, why have an autopsy done? Here are some reasons you may want to consider having an autopsy done.

Why would I want to have an autopsy done on my loved one?

— Your loved one died from a medical problem that had not been diagnosed before death.

— You have questions about an unexpected death.

— Your loved one died from a genetic disease or problem, and you or other family members may be at risk of getting it.

— Your loved one died during a medical, dental, surgical or obstetric procedure.

— The cause of death may affect legal matters.

— Your loved one died during an experimental treatment, and an autopsy will help doctors learn more about that treatment.

— Your loved one died from a disease or illness, and an autopsy will help doctors better understand the disease process and how well the treatment worked.

— The autopsy will help confirm or rule out a diagnosis made before death.

What are the benefits? An autopsy on your deceased loved one may possibly save the life of your living loved ones! Benefits of research from autopsies include the production of new medical information to help understand and better treat diseases.

There are no risks to having an autopsy. It may reveal some things, such as habits and diseases that you didn’t know about the person who died. For example, the doctor may find cancer during an autopsy. Or an exam of the liver may show cirrhosis which can be caused by drinking too much alcohol.

If your loved one died from an inherited disease or problem, you may find out if you or other family members may be at risk of getting it. Organ donations from the deceased may save the life of a member of your family or other patients from another family.

In conclusion, you have to decide what matters most to you. Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision and think about these statements. Which is more important, equally important or not important?

1) Reasons to have an autopsy done on your loved one.

2) My loved one died without warning, and I want to know why.

3) The death of my loved one was expected, and knowing the exact cause of death won’t help anyone.

4) I want doctors to learn more about the disease or condition that caused my loved one’s death.

5) I am not interested in knowing more about the disease or condition that caused my loved one’s death.

6) An autopsy is acceptable in my religion, ethnic group, or culture.

7) I want to know the cause of my loved one’s death, even if we have to pay for it.

8) An autopsy won’t make losing my loved one any harder than it already is.

9) An autopsy will cause me or my family more grief than we already feel.

Michael Fowler Sr., CFSP, is president of the Georgia Funeral Service Practitioners Association and is a retired death investigation specialist/forensic pathology assistant with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab.