Many people believe that autopsies should only be performed when there is uncertainty as to the cause of death. Although this is certainly a valid reason for an autopsy, it is not the only reason. The purpose of an autopsy is to thoroughly evaluate the presence and extent of human disease in patients and to evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic procedures for the benefit of patient families, our staff, and the future practice of medicine. The personnel involved in the autopsy are able to see the physical manifestations of human disease during the post-mortem examination. The results of the autopsy are also used to develop quality assurance data and outcomes measures statistics for the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
An autopsy can be reassuring for the family. The results of the autopsy can affirm known diseases or uncover incidental findings that the family may not have been aware existed. Some families choose to have an autopsy performed to put their concerns at ease, further medical knowledge, or learn if their family is at risk for genetic diseases.