Requesting an Autopsy

Who May Have an Autopsy

The State of Connecticut requires the Medical Examiner to examine deaths due to causes such as accident, homicide, suicide, and unknown causes. Yale-New Haven Hospital is required to report patient deaths that fit the established criteria to The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Each case is reviewed and investigated by the trained Medicolegal Investigators. The Medical Examiner’s Office will determine if there is a need to further investigate the death. 

Yale-New Haven Hospital can only perform autopsies at the request of the family on patients that are declined by the Medical Examiner. Once consent is obtained from the family, a physician is contacted to review the patient’s medical history to better understand what to expect during the autopsy. The clinical findings are then reviewed with a board certified attending physician.

Giving Permission for an Autopsy

According to Connecticut Statute Sec19a-286, the next of kin or person responsible for burial is authorized to give permission for a hospital autopsy. Permission may be given in person by signing the “Consent for Post-Mortem Examination” form or by a witnessed telephone conversation. The family may consent to a full, unrestricted autopsy, or may limit the extent of the autopsy.

Limiting the Autopsy

We honor any limitations placed on the autopsy. To determine if limitations are appropriate, the family should consider what questions they have regarding the death of their loved one. Limitations allow a specific organ or area of the body due to concern for a disease process to be examined. If the family wants to know the cause of death, it is best to not place any limitations on the autopsy to afford us the best opportunity to determine the cause of death. Please call the Autopsy Service if you have any questions regarding placing limitations on the autopsy.

Religious Considerations

Autopsies have been performed on individuals of all religious backgrounds, and many major religions leave this decision to the next-of-kin. However, you may wish to consult with your priest, minister, rabbi, or other religious leader.