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Autopsy Services

We offer a comprehensive array of autopsy services that conculsively determine the cause of death, and reveal important medical truths about the person’s overall condition at the time of death.

Why perform an autopsy?

Autopsies reveal medical truths that cannot be found any other way – and their findings can be surprising. For example, Dr. Gregory J. Davis at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine found that 40 percent of autopsies performed in the U.S. reveal diseases previously unknown to physicians, in large part because the autopsy employs techniques that cannot be used on the living.

Autopsy studies, which definitively determine cause of death, then compare their findings to the causes of death listed on medical or death records, report that in about 15 to 30 percent of cases, the diagnoses at time of death are incorrect. Even more surprising? Five to ten percent of the time, that diagnostic error probably contributed to the person’s death.

Our comprehensive autopsy services are designed to explore these factors:

  • Determination of the cause and manner of death
  • Evaluation of inheritable, genetic conditions
  • Evaluation of quality of health care treatment
  • Cases of possible medical malpractice or wrongful death
  • Determining exact types of cancers
  • Diagnosing dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Confirming or refuting clinical findings
  • Extent of disease processes
  • Sudden or unexpected deaths
  • Exposure to known toxic chemicals or materials, such Toxic Tort litigation for asbestos, benzene, Fen-Phen, manganese exposure, black lung, nephrogenic fibrosis, silicosis, or other types of exposure
  • Litigation, worker’s compensation, insurance, etc.
  • Unclear or unexplained symptoms or conditions
  • Fetal autopsy for inborn or acquired conditions

All of our autopsy services are available with full transport service and expert witness testimony. Please contact us for more information.

What are the different types of autopsies?

An autopsy is the scientific examination of the exterior and interior of the body of a deceased person. Autopsies are generally divided into the categories of Clinical and Forensic.

Clinical Autopsy

Clinical autopsy, also known as “pathological autopsy,” is done to diagnose the disease that has caused the death. Clinical autopsies may be done even if the disease is known prior to death, in order to further advance scientific knowledge of the condition. These autopsies, indicated when foul play is not suspected, are most often done in a hospital or other clinical setting.

Forensic Autopsy

Forensic autopsy, also referred to as “medico-legal” (ML) autopsy, is performed to provide answers to questions about a death in which suspicious circumstances or other evidence indicate potential foul play. Information sought may include the deceased’s identity, cause and manner of death, time of death, circumstances of death, and related issues (including collecting trace evidence and information about the crime scene). This type of autopsy helps law enforcement agencies determine if a crime occurred; and if so, it helps them solve that crime.

As part of a forensic autopsy, our primary forensic pathologist, Dr. Ashley Zezulak, will examine all crime scene photos, police reports, and other relevant data. Dr. Zezulak has an extensive background as a former deputy Medical Examiner, bringing years of experience to each case.

Forensic autopsy services:

  • Choice of radiographic imaging: three-dimensional, 16-cut computed tomography (CT) scans, Lodox®, plain film X-ray
  • As needed, detailed histology (tissue) testing with additional clarification using immunohistochemical and special stains
  • Secure video-teleconferencing, allowing real-time remote viewing of autopsies by authorized parties (with visual and audio interaction)
  • On-scene visits by our law-enforcement-trained forensic pathologist (upon request)

The actual procedures for clinical vs. forensic autopsies are often largely the same, but there are also important differences. All of our autopsies are performed/verified by an expert forensic pathologist. These include limited or full post-mortem examinations as needed to meet the goals of the type of autopsy we are performing. We can work with you to determine the type and extent of autopsy services that will best answer your questions and meet your needs.

What is a private autopsy?

Private autopsies are those done at the request of the deceased person’s family and/or private attorney. Private autopsies may include both clinical and forensic autopsy services.

When a loved one dies, family members are suffering a painful loss. This loss can be made even more difficult by confusion, unanswered questions, and other concerns. Families may feel the need for closure as to the cause of death, even in cases of a pre-existing disease or medical condition of which they are already aware. A clinical autopsy, for example, may reassure a family that the cause of death was a known disease and that their loved one received appropriate and high quality medical care.

For families, the autopsy offers both psychological and tangible benefits. Uncertainty regarding the cause of an individual's death can delay payment of insurance benefits. The autopsy can also uncover genetic or environmental causes of disease that could affect other family members. (Our services can include DNA testing for family members in cases where an autopsy reveals a genetic condition that may impact them.)

In other situations, families may be considering civil litigation if they suspect liability or wrongful death. Families may also seek private autopsies in cases where a coroner or medical examiner has declined to perform one.

Some procedures are commonly associated with litigation autopsies. These include:

  • Brain only autopsies for head injury
  • Radiation exposure
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Cancer diagnosis
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Trauma or injury resulting in death
  • Workers compensation/Insurance

Exhumation

In some cases, family members and their legal representatives may also seek an autopsy after exhumation, perhaps years after the body has been laid to rest. Whatever the situation, our team can provide grieving families with peace of mind and the information they need to move forward after the loss of a loved one.