- An autopsy (also known as a post-mortem examination or necropsy) is the examination of the body of a dead person and is performed primarily to determine the cause of death, to identify or characterize the extent of disease states that the person may have had, or to determine whether a particular medical or surgical treatment has been effective.
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Autopsy definition is - an examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death or the character and extent of changes produced by disease —called also necropsy.
An autopsy is a postmortem assessment or examination of a body to determine the cause of death. An autopsy is performed by a physician trained in pathology.
- Lay Opinion Testimony About Cause of Death
- Expert Opinion Testimony About Cause of Death
- Admissibility of Autopsy/Death Photographs
- Autopsy Issues
Although the state will usually establish the cause of death in a case through the testimony of an expert witness (typically the medical examiner or pathologist who performed the autopsy), a lay witness is also permitted to give an opinion about the cause of the victim’s death if: (i) it is based on the witness’s personal observations; and (ii) the circumstances were such that any person of average intelligence would know that it resulted in death. See State v. Cherry, 141 N.C. App. 642 (2000) (officer was properly permitted to offer an opinion that the cause of victim’s cause death was gunshot wound to the back of the head: “We find that Mr. Edwards’ wounds were obviously lethal in nature to a sufficient degree to render expert medical testimony as to the cause of death unnecessary”); State v. Wilson, 280 N.C. 674 (1972) (non-expert found competent to testify about cause of death when evidence showed that deceased was shot by defendant in chest with shotgun at close range, deceased...
North Carolina’s appellate courts have consistently held (both before and after the 2011 Daubert amendments) that the testimony of a properly qualified expert witness regarding the cause of a victim’s death is admissible under Rule 702. See, e.g., State v. Ford, 245 N.C. App. 510 (2016) (not plain error to allow forensic pathologist to opine that the victim’s cause of death was exsanguination due to dog bites); State v. Johnson, 343 N.C. 489 (1996) (allowing witness to testify as an expert in pathology and cause of death, even though witness was not yet certified and had not completed formal training, but had performed a number of prior autopsies); State v. Miller, 302 N.C. 572 (1981) (the trial court did not err by allowing an expert forensic pathologist to testify regarding the size or gauge of the gun used as the murder weapon); State v. Morgan, 299 N.C. 191 (1980) (rejecting the defendant’s challenge to expert testimony offered by the N.C. Chief Medical Examiner that the cause o...
When a photograph is relevant and material, the fact that it is gory, gruesome, or otherwise tends to arouse prejudice will not, standing alone, render it inadmissible. See State v. Hennis, 323 N.C. 279 (1988). In Hennis, the court ruled that it is left in the trial judge’s discretion to evaluate whether the probative value of the photographic evidence is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice. Id. The court set forth a number of factors that the trial judge should weigh in exercising such discretion, as follows: 1. Content and manner in which photographic evidence is used; 2. Level of detail and scale; 3. Whether the photograph is in black and white or color; 4. Whether the photograph is a slide or a print; 5. Manner in which the photograph is projected or presented; and 6. Scope and clarity of the testimony that the photographic evidence accompanies. Id. The court in Hennis ruled that the use of 35 photographs (which were projected on a screen above the defendant...
Who May Perform Autopsy
G.S. 130A-389 provides that the Chief Medical Examineror a competent pathologist appointed by the Chief Medical Examiner may perform an autopsy.
Who May Order or Request Autopsy
The Chief Medical Examiner or the medical examiner investigating a case may order an autopsy, and a district attorney or superior court judge may request that an autopsy be performed. G.S. 130A-389; G.S. 15-7. For other cases in which an autopsy is authorized, and a list of other persons who may request that it be done in certain circumstances, see G.S. 130A-398.
Admissibility of Autopsy Report
Autopsy reports are generally admissible in court, but remain subject to constitutional and evidentiary limitations. See G.S. 130A-392 (reports of medical examiner and autopsy reports “may be received as evidence in any court or other proceeding”); but see State v. Locklear, 363 N.C. 438 (2009) (Crawford violation occurred when the trial court admitted opinion testimony of two non-testifying experts regarding a victim’s cause of death and identity); State v. Watson, 281 N.C. 221 (1972) (intro...
- Autopsy Definition
- Autopsy Method
- Types of Autopsy
- Importance of Autopsies
An autopsy is a surgical procedure performed on a corpse after death (a period called, “post-mortem.”). It is typically conducted in an attempt to understand the person’s cause of death. The autopsy will be conducted by a trained physician who has specialized in pathology, as determining the cause of death will require a vast understanding of disease and injury. A brief history of autopsies will tell us that humans have been performing autopsies since the dawn of time, it seems. There is historical data to support that autopsies were performed in ancient Egyptian times. Ancient Egypt was notably known for performing elaborate death rituals and valuing the afterlife, so it makes sense that an autopsy would be part of that ritual. However, a distinction between those early times and now is that whereas ancient Egyptian examiners were removing organs for preservation, autopsies today are done with the intention to explain disease and death. The image depicts an old photograph of a Japa...
An autopsy, at its base, is a surgical dissection. There are different correct ways to perform it, but the Letulle method has become the principle protocol for training pathologists. This particular method finds the pathologist or medical student commencing the dissection at the abdomen. After piercing the abdominal area, the abdominal organs will be removed in one block per this method – understandably called the “en bloc” method. The direction the Letulle method will take is called a retroperitoneal approach. This essentially means that the organs will be removed starting with the organs situated directly behind the peritoneum, and moving backward. The peritoneum, in turn, is a serous lining located in the abdominal cavity. It appears like a light colored sheet that will cover and thus protect our abdominal organs. The retroperitoneal organs will include the adrenal glands, the pancreas, the lower segments of the small intestine’s duodenum, and the ascending and descending parts o...
An autopsy is performed for three main reasons that we will discuss shortly. A clinical autopsy will be done on a patient that has died while under the care of a hospital or clinical staff and in cases where the physicians have failed to identify the cause of a sudden death. This type of autopsy will be useful for attaining the time and cause of death, as well as for giving doctors a cause of death to appropriately file a death certificate. A forensic autopsy, on the other hand, will be a type of autopsy performed when a corpse has been retrieved from a crime or murder site. This autopsy will reveal any trace of bullets, blows or injuries, and poison in the system. A medical examiner must be present, and will decide if the cause of death was an accident, murder, or suicide. This autopsy will guide police through their investigation. Lastly, an academic autopsy is one that is performed by medical students to teach them about human anatomy. Likewise, some may be used for research purp...
While any family, or next of kin, can request an autopsy of their deceased loved one, autopsies are most certainly the golden standard when the cause of death is uncertain. This may take place if a person was found deceased from a possibly accidental circumstance, or if a person was murdered. This clearly has crucial significance in the realm of criminal law, but also within the human experience of grieving and finding closure. For this reason, the autopsy has been performed for legal and medical reasons for a long time.
1. Which of the following characterizes the Rokitansky method of autopsy? A. Start at the abdominal cavity and start removing organs by layer B. Remove organs employing in situ removal C. Begin at the cranium and move downward D.Remove organs employing en bloc removal 2. Which type of autopsy is one that requires the presence of a medical examiner? A. Clinical B. Forensic C. Academic D.None of the above
An autopsy (post-mortem examination, obduction, necropsy, or autopsia cadaverum) is a surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse by dissection to determine the cause, mode, and manner of death or to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present for research or educational purposes.
noun, plural au·top·sies. inspection and dissection of a body after death, as for determination of the cause of death; postmortem examination. an analysis of something after it has been done or made. verb (used with object), au·top·sied, au·top·sy·ing.
Cause of Death Cause of Death is a term used to indicate the medical cause of death. It lists the disease (s) or injuries that caused death. Specific cause of death information is recorded on the death certificate and is entered into the Vital Statistics System of the State of Washington.
The mechanism of death refers to the process of death, in which failure of one or more vital organs due to injury, disease or natural events. For example, the mechanism of death for many diabetics is kidneyfailure. Other body organs, such as the liver, are adversely affected by kidney failure and death may follow. The actual cause of death may be due to heart or liver failure, but the diabetes was responsible for initiatingthe death process.
Cause of death (etiologically specific disease or injury) and the manner of death (classification / categorization used for how the death came about) are determined based on the circumstances of the death (determined by scene investigation, interviews with next of kin, review of medical history / records), examination of the body (external exam, autopsy) and ancillary studies (toxicology ...