Requesting an Autopsy

Who May Have an Autopsy

Yale New Haven Hospital will perform an autopsy free of charge for patients that expire at Yale New Haven Hospital as well as any persons who has been a registered patient of Yale New Haven Hospital. The Service retains the right to decline to perform an autopsy on any patient that did not expire at the hospital. Yale New Haven Hospital performs all autopsies from Bridgeport Hospital and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System West Haven Campus, as well as the pediatric autopsies from Greenwich Hospital. Yale New Haven Hospital is not responsible for obtaining consents from Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital or the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Consent must be taken by a Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, or the VA Connecticut Healthcare System staff member and sent to the York Street Campus through an established channel. The Autopsy Service no longer routinely accepts requests for private autopsies. However, the Autopsy Service will accept non-patient autopsy requests on Alzheimer and dementia patients where the consent is limited to the examination of the brain.

Yale New Haven Hospital can only perform autopsies at the request of the family on patients that are declined by the Medical Examiner. The State of Connecticut requires that the Medical Examiner examine deaths due to accident, homicide, suicide, and unknown causes. Yale New Haven Hospital is required to report patient deaths that fit the established criteria concerning manner of death to The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (State of Connecticut). 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.

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 or through a witnessed telephone conversation. When consent is given in person, the “Consent for Post-Mortem Examination” must be signed both by the person entitled by law to control the disposition of the body and by a designated Yale New Haven Hospital staff member. Alternatively, consent may be given verbally over the telephone through a witnessed conversation with two designated Yale New Haven Hospital staff members who will both sign the form. The family may consent to a full, unrestricted autopsy, or may limit the extent of the autopsy.

Limiting the Autopsy

The Autopsy Service will honor any limitations placed on the autopsy. The family should consider what questions they have regarding the death of their loved one to determine what, if any, restrictions should be placed on the autopsy. 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.

Statement 6 on the autopsy consent form reads: “I understand that I may place some limitations on both the retention of organs and the extent of the autopsy. I understand that any limitations may compromise the diagnostic value of the autopsy or may limit the usefulness of the autopsy for education, quality improvement or research purposes.” This statement means the family may either 1) grant permission for a complete autopsy, with removal, examination, and retention of material as the pathologists deem proper for the purposes listed in the consent, or 2) place restrictions on retention of organs or extent of the autopsy. Please note that a complete autopsy will not interfere with any funeral arrangements.

Please call the Autopsy Service if you have any questions regarding placing limitations on the autopsy.