An autopsy is a medical process of performing surgery on a corpse by a pathologist through dissection of the body to know the possible cause of death; whether it was due to injuries or ailments. The medical term is also called post-mortem, necropsy or obduction.
In most cases, it is performed by health professionals who are the expertise of criminology or forensic medicine. These are doctors who have specialized in areas of crime and work with other security experts in a risky environment. A point to note is that such medical professionals are few across the continent.
Having said that, the medical process involves four major categories
The major classification of autopsies
- Forensic autopsy/medico-legal – used to determine cause of death related to criminal issue
- Clinical/pathological autopsy – used to diagnose particular ailments of unknown cause or for research use.
- Anatomical/academic autopsies – often carried out by medical students for the purpose of the study.
- Visual/medical imaging autopsies – performed by the use of modern imaging technology.
The autopsy is done on the body of the deceased to get justice for them and find out the cause of death. The procedure involves external and internal body check. The latter is conducted after getting permission from the next of kin or in the case of an emergency; it can also be conducted without seeking for such permission.
When is an autopsy conducted?
This happens when a person dies suddenly or when the cause of his/her demise creates suspicion or whether treatment or medical diagnosis was appropriate or not before the death. The family of the deceased can ask for the surgery if they want to know the cause of death and it is majorly done in an independent unit within a hospital.
How is an autopsy conducted?
After an investigation is complete, the pathologist writes a detailed report on the findings of the autopsy, which is used in a court of law, if the case gets through the judicial system. The result of the death could be summarized in such a way that it reveals the cause of demise: natural death, accident, murder, suicide or undetermined cause.
Although the practice originated from western countries, there are organizations that are against the practice, but it is majorly used in developing countries.
An external examination
When the body is brought into the autopsy unit in the hospital, it is first photographed, and any physical appearance like clothing is carefully noted down. Samples of the nails or hairs are collected for evidence. Thus, it is radiographically imaged. This is an external examination of the body; it is finalized by undressing the body, examining wounds, weighing and cleaning in preparation for the internal examination.
An internal examination
The internal examination begins by body dissecting into a symbol ‘Y’ or ‘T’. The deep incision starts from the neck down to the pubic bone to make internal organs such as the heart, lung visible for examination.
An incision is made from behind one ear of the head to the other ear over the head crown, for brain examination. All the internal organs are returned into the body after complete investigation is done unless the family asks for further investigation. It is finally wrapped in a shroud, ready for burial.