Written by Dr. Dinesh Rao

A Introduction

Difficult or sensitive cases should ideally be the responsibility of an objective, experienced, well-equipped and well-trained prosector (the person performing the autopsy and preparing the written report) who is separate from any potentially involved political organization or entity. Unfortunately,this ideal is often unattainable. This proposed model autopsy protocol includes a comprehensive checklist of the steps in a basic forensic postmortem examination that should be followed to the extent possible given the resources available. Use of this autopsy protocol will permit early and final resolution of potentially controversial cases and will thwart the speculation and innuendo that are fueled by unanswered, partially answered or poorly answered questions in the investigation of an apparently suspicious death.

This model autopsy protocol is intended to have several applications and may be of value to the following categories of individuals

  1. Experienced forensic pathologists may follow this model autopsy protocol to ensure a systematic examination and to facilitate meaningful positive or negative criticism by later observers. While -trained pathologists may justifiably abridge certain aspects of the postmortem examination or written descriptions of their findings in routine cases, abridged examinations or reports are never appropriate in potentially controversial cases. Rather, a systematic and comprehensive examination and report are required to prevent the omission or loss of important details;
  2. General pathologists or other physicians who have not been trained in forensic pathology but are familiar with basic postmortem examination techniques may supplement their customary autopsy procedures with this model autopsy protocol. It may also alert them to situations in which they should seek consultation, as written material cannot replace the knowledge gained through experience;
  3. Independent consultants whose expertise has been requested in observing, performing or reviewing an autopsy may cite this model autopsy protocol and its proposed minimum criteria as a basis for their actions or opinions;
  4. Governmental authorities, international political organizations, law enforcement agencies, families or friends of decedents, or representatives of potential defendants charged with responsibility for a death may use this model autopsy protocol to establish appropriate procedures for the postmortem examination prior to its performance;
  5. Historians, journalists, attorneys,judges, other physicians and representatives of the public may also use this model autopsy protocol as a benchmark for evaluating an autopsy and its findings;
  6. Governments or individuals who are attempting either to establish or upgrade their medicolegal system for investigating deaths may use this model autopsy protocol as a guideline, representing the procedures and goals to be incorporated into an ideal medicolegal system.

While performing any medicolegal death investigation, the prosector should collect information that will establish the identity of the deceased, the time and place of death, the cause of death, and the manner or mode of death (homicide, suicide, accident or natural).

It is of the utmost importance that an autopsy performed following a controversial death be thorough in scope. The documentation and recording of the autopsy findings should be equally thorough so as to permit meaningful use of the autopsy results (see annex II). It is important to have as few omissions or discrepancies as possible, as proponents of different interpretations of a case may take advantage of any perceived shortcomings in the investigation. An autopsy performed in a controversial death should meet certain minimum criteria if the autopsy report is to be proffered as meaningful or conclusive by the prosector, the autopsy's sponsoring agency or governmental unit, or anyone else attempting to make use of such an autopsy's findings or conclusions.

This model autopsy protocol is designed to be used in diverse situations. Resources such as autopsy rooms, X-ray equipment or adequately trained personnel are not available everywhere. Forensic pathologists must operate under widely divergent political systems. In addition, social and religious customs vary widely throughout the world; an autopsy is an expected and routine procedure in some areas, while it is abhorred in others. A prosector, therefore, may not always be able to follow all of the steps in this protocol when performing autopsies. Variation from this protocol may be inevitable or even preferable in some cases. It is suggested, however, that any major deviations, with the supporting reasons, should be noted.

It is important that the body should be made available to the prosector for a minimum of 12 hours in order to assure an adequate and unhurried examination. Unrealistic limits or conditions are occasionally placed upon the prosector with respect to the length of time permitted for the examination or the circumstances under which an examination is allowed. When conditions are imposed, the prosector should be able to refuse to perform a compromised examination and should prepare a report explaining this position. Such a refusal should not be interpreted as indicating that an examination was unnecessary or inappropriate. If the prosector decides to proceed with the examination notwithstanding difficult conditions or circumstances, he or she should include in the autopsy report an explanation of the limitations or impediments.

Certain steps in this model autopsy protocol have been emphasized by the use of  boldface type. These represent the most essential elements of the protocol.

Proposed model autopsy protocol

1. Scene investigation

The prosector(s) and medical investigators should have the right of access to the scene where the body is found. The medical personnel should be notified immediately to assure that no alteration of the body has occurred. If access to the scene was denied, if the body was altered or if information was withheld, this should be stated in the prosector's report.

A system for co-ordination between the medical and non-medical investigators (e.g. law enforcement agencies) should be established. This should address such issues as how the prosector will be notified and who will be in charge of the scene. Obtaining certain types of evidence is often the role of the non-medical investigators, but the medical investigators who have access to the body at the scene of death should perform the following steps:

  1. Photograph the body as it is found and after it has been moved;
  2. Record the body position and condition, including body warmth or coolness, lividity and rigidity;
  3. Protect the deceased's hands, e.g. with paper bags;
  4. Note the ambient temperature. In cases where the time of death is an issue, rectal temperature should be recorded and any insects present should be collected for forensic entomological study. Which procedure is applicable will depend on the length of the apparent postmortem interval;
  5. Examine the scene for blood, as this may be useful in identifying suspects;
  6. Record the identities of all persons at the scene;
  7. Obtain information from scene witnesses, including those who last saw the decedent alive, and when, where and under what circumstances. Interview any emergency medical personnel who may have had contact with the body;
  8. Obtain identification of the body and other pertinent information from friends or relatives. Obtain the deceased's medical history from his or her physician(s) and hospital charts, including any previous surgery, alcohol or drug use, suicide attempts and habits;
  9. Place the body in a body pouch or its equivalent. Save this pouch after the body has been removed from it;
  10. Store the body in a secure refrigerated location so that tampering with the body and its evidence cannot occur;
  11. Make sure that projectiles, guns,knives and other weapons are available for examination by the responsible medical personnel;
  12. If the decedent was hospitalized prior to death, obtain admission or blood specimens and any X-rays, and review and summarize hospital records;
  13. Before beginning the autopsy, become familiar with the types of torture or violence that are prevalent in that country or locale (see annex II).

2. Autopsy

The following Protocol should be followed during the autopsy:

  1. Record the date, starting and finishing times, and place of the autopsy (a complex autopsy may take as long as an entire working day);
  2. Record the name(s) of the prosector(s), the participating assistant(s), and all other persons present during the autopsy, including the medical and/or scientific degrees and professional, political or administrative affiliations(s) of each. Each person's role in the autopsy should be indicated, and one person should be designated as the rincipal prosector who will have the authority to direct the performance of the autopsy. Observers and other team members are subject to direction by, and should not interfere with, the principal prosector. The time(s) during the autopsy when each person is present should be included. The use of a "sign-in" sheet is recommended;
  3. Adequate photographs are crucial for thorough documentation of autopsy findings:

    (i) Photographs should be in colour (transparency or negative/ print), in focus, adequately illuminated, and taken by a professional or good quality camera. Each photograph should contain a ruled reference scale, an identifying case name or number, and a sample of standard grey. A description of the camera (including the lens "f-number" and focal length), film and the lighting system must be included in the autopsy report. If more than one camera is utilized, the identifying information should be recorded for each. Photographs should also include information indicating which camera took each picture, if more than one camera is used. The identity of the person taking the photographs should be recorded;

    (ii) Serial photographs reflecting the course of the external examination must be included. Photograph the body prior to and following undressing, washing or cleaning and shaving;

    (iii) Supplement close-up photographs with distant and/or immediate range photographs to permit orientation and identification of the close-up photographs;

    (iv) Photographs should be comprehensive in scope and must confirm the presence of all demonstrable signs of injury or disease commented upon in the autopsy report;

    (v) Identifying facial features should be portrayed (after washing or cleaning the body), with photographs of a full frontal aspect of the face, and right and left profiles of the face with hair in normal position and with hair retracted, if necessary, to reveal the ears;

  4. Radiograph the body before it is removed from its pouch or wrappings. X-rays should be repeated both before and after undressing the body. Fluoroscopy may also be performed. Photograph all X-ray films

    (i) Obtain dental X-rays, even if identification has been established in other ways

    (ii) Document any skeletal system injury by X-ray. Skeletal X-rays may also record anatomic defects or surgical procedures. Check especially for fractures of the fingers, toes and other bones in the hands and feet. Skeletal X-rays may also aid in the dentification of the deceased, by detecting identifying characteristics, estimating age and height, and determining sex and race. Frontal sinus films should also be taken, as these can be particularly useful for identification purposes;

    (iii) Take X-rays in gunshot cases to aid in locating-the projectile(s). Recover, photograph and save any projectile or major projectile fragment that is seen on an X-ray. Other radio-opaque objects (pacemakers, artificial joints or valves, knife fragments etc.) documented with X-rays should also be removed, photographed and saved;

    (iv) Skeletal X-rays are essential in children to assist in determining age and developmental status;

  5. Before the clothing is removed, examine the body and the clothing. Photograph the clothed body. Record any jewellery present;
  6. The clothing should be carefully removed over a clean sheet or body pouch. Let the clothing dry if it is bloody or wet. Describe the clothing that is removed and label it in a permanent fashion. Either place the clothes in the custody of a responsible person or keep them, as they may be useful as evidence or for identification;
  7. The external examination, focusing on a search for external evidence of injury is, in most cases, the most important portion of the autopsy;

    (i) Photograph all surfaces - 100 per cent of the body area. Take good quality, well-focused, colour photographs with adequate illumination;

    (ii) Describe and document the means used to make the identification. Examine the body and record the deceased's apparent age, length, weight, sex, head hair style and length, nutritional status, muscular development and colour of skin,eyes and hair (head, facial and body);

    (iii) In children, measure also the head circumference, crown-rump length and crown-heel length;

    (iv) Record the degree, location and fixation of rigor and livor mortis

    (v) Note body warmth or coolness and state of preservation; note any decomposition changes, such as skin slippage. Evaluate the general condition of the body and note adipocere ormation, maggots, eggs or anything else that suggests the time or place of death

    (vi) With all injuries, record the size, shape, pattern, location (related to obvious anatomic landmarks), colour, course, direction, depth and structure involved. Attempt to distinguish injuries resulting from therapeutic measures from those unrelated to medical treatment. In the description of projectile wounds, note the presence or absence of soot, gunpowder, or singeing. If gunshot residue is present, document it photographically and save it for analysis. Attempt to determine whether the gunshot wound is an entry or exit wound. If an entry wound is present and no exit wound is seen, the projectile must be found and saved or accounted for. Excise wound tract tissue samples for microscopic examination. Tape together the edges of knife wounds to assess the blade size and characteristics

    (vii) Photograph all injuries, taking two colour pictures of each, labelled with the autopsy identification number on a scale that is oriented parallel or perpendicular to the injury. Shave hair where necessary to clarify an injury, and take photographs before and after shaving. Save all hair removed from the site of the injury. Take photographs before and after washing the site of any injury. Wash the body only after any blood or material that may have come from an assailant has been collected and saved

    (viii) Examine the skin. Note and photograph any scars, areas of keloid formation, tattoos, prominent moles, areas of increased or decreased pigmentation, and anything distinctive or unique such as birthmarks. Note any bruises and incise them for delineation of their extent. Excise them for microscopic examination. The head and genital area should be checked with special care. Note any injection sites or puncture wounds and excise them to use for toxicological evaluation. Note any abrasions and excise them; microscopic sections may be useful for attempting to date the time of injury. Note any bite marks; these should be photographed to record the dental pattern, swabbed for saliva testing (before the body is washed) and excised for microscopic examination. Bite marks should also be analysed by a forensic odontologist, if possible. Note any burn marks and attempt to determine the cause (burning rubber, a cigarette, electricity, a blowtorch, acid, hot oil etc.). Excise any suspicious areas for microscopic examination, as it may be possible to distinguish microscopically between burns caused by electricity and those caused by heat;

    (ix) Identify and label any foreign object that is recovered, including its relation to specific injuries. Do not scratch the sides or tip of any projectiles. Photograph each projectile and large projectile fragment with an identifying label, and then place each in a sealed, padded and labelled container in order to maintain the chain of custody;

    (x) Collect a blood specimen of at least 50 cc from a subclavian or femoral vessel;

    (xi) Examine the head and external scalp, bearing in mind that injuries way be hidden by the hair. Shave hair where necessary. Check for fleas and lice, as these way indicate unsanitary conditions prior to death. Note any alopecia as this may be caused by malnutrition, heavy metals (e.g. thallium), drugs or traction. Pull, do not cut, 20 representative head hairs and save them, as hair may also be useful for detecting some drugs and poisons;

    (xii) Examine the teeth and note their condition. Record any that are absent, loose or damaged, and record all dental work (restorations, fillings etc.), using a dental identification system to identify each tooth. Check the gums for periodontal disease. Photograph dentures, if any, and save them if the decedent's identity is unknown. Remove the mandible and maxilla if necessary for identification. Check the inside of the mouth and note any evidence of trauma, injection sites, needle marks or biting of the lips, cheeks or tongue. Note any articles or substances in the mouth. In cases of suspected sexual assault, save oral fluid or get a swab for spermatozoa and acid phosphatase evaluation. (Swabs taken at the tooth-gum junction and samples from between the teeth provide the best specimens for identifying spermatozoa.) Also take swabs from the oral cavity for seminal fluid typing. Dry the swabs quickly with cool, blown air if possible, and preserve them in clean plain paper envelopes. If rigor mortis prevents an adequate examination, the masseter muscles may be cut to permit better exposure

    (xiii) Examine the face and note if it is cyanotic or if petechiae are present>

    a. Examine the eyes and view the conjunctiva of both the globes and the eyelids. Note any petechiae in the upper on lower eyelids. Note any scleral icterus. Save contact lenses, if any are present. Collect at least 1 ml of vitreous humor from each eye

    b. Examine the nose and ears and note any evidence of trauma, haemorrhage or other abnormalities. Examine the tympanic membranes;

    (xiv) Examine the neck externally on all aspects and note any contusions, abrasions or petechia. Describe and document injury patterns to differentiate manual, ligature and hanging strangulation. Examine the neck at the conclusion of the autopsy, when the blood has drained out of the area and the tissues are dry;

    (xv) Examine all surfaces of the extremities: arms, forearms, wrists, hands, legs and feet, and note any "defence" wounds. Dissect and describe any injuries. Note any bruises about the wrists or ankles that may suggest restraints such as handcuffs or suspension. Examine the medial and lateral surfaces of the fingers, the anterior forearms and the backs of the knees for bruises;

    (xvi) Note any broken or missing fingernails. Note any gunpowder residue on the hands, document photographically and save it for analysis. Take fingerprints in all cases. If the decedent's identity is unknown and fingerprints cannot be obtained, remove the "glove" of the skin, if present. Save the fingers if no other means of obtaining fingerprints is possible. Save finger nail clippings and any under-nail tissue (nail scrapings). Examine the fingernail and toenail beds for evidence of object having been pushed beneath the nails. Nails can be removed b, dissecting the lateral margins and proximal base, and then the undersurface of the nails can be inspected. If this is done, the hands must be photographed before and after the nails are removed. Carefully examine the soles of the feet, noting any evidence of beating. Incise the soles to delineate the extent of any injuries. Examine the palms and knees, looking especially for glass shards or lacerations;

    (xvii) Examine the external genitalia and note the presence of any foreign material or semen. Note the size, location and number of any abrasions or contusions. Note any injury to the inner thighs or peri-anal area. Look for peri-anal burns;<

    (xviii) In cases of suspected sexual assault, examine all potentially involved orifices. A speculum should be used to examine the vaginal walls. Collect foreign hair by combing the pubic hair. Pull and save at least 20 of the deceased's own pubic hairs, including roots. Aspirate fluid from the vagina and/or rest, for acid phosphatase, blood group and spermatozoa evaluation. Take swabs from the same areas for seminal fluid typing. Dry the swabs quickly with cool,blown air if possible, and preserve them in clean plain paper envelopes;

    (xix) The length of the back, the buttocks and extremities including wrists and ankles must be systematically incised to look for deep injuries. The shoulders, elbows, hips and knee joints must also be incised to look for ligamentous injury;>

  8. The internal examination for internal evidence of injury should clarify and augment the external examination;

    (i) Be systematic in the internal examination. Perform the examination either by body regions or by systems, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, biliary,gastrointestinal, reticuloendothelial, genitourinary, endocrine, musculoskeletal, and central nervous systems. Record the weight, size, shape, colour and consistency of each organ, and note any neoplasia, inflammation, anomalies, haemorrhage, ischemia, infarcts, surgical procedures or injuries. Take sections of normal and any abnormal areas of each organ for microscopic examination. Take samples of any fractured bones for radiographic and microscopic estimation of the age of the fracture;

    (ii) Examine the chest. Note any abnormalities of the breasts. Record any rib fractures, noting whether cardiopulmonary resuscitation was attempted. Before opening, check for pneumothoraces. Record the thickness of subcutaneous fat. Immediately after opening the chest, evaluate the pleural cavities and the pericardial sac for the presence of blood or other fluid, and describe and quantify any fluid present. Save any fluid present until foreign objects are accounted for. Note the presence of air embolism, characterized by frothy blood within the right atrium and right ventricle. Trace any injuries before removing the organs. If blood is not available at other sites, collect a sample directly from the heart. Examine the heart, noting degree and location of coronary artery disease or other abnormalities. Examine the lungs, noting any abnormalities;

    (iii) Examine the abdomen and record the amount of subcutaneous fat. Retain 50 grams of adipose tissue for toxicological evaluation. Note the interrelationships of the organs. Trace any injuries before removing the organs. Note any fluid or blood present in the peritoneal cavity, and save it until foreign objects are accounted for. Save all urine and bile for toxicologic examination;

    (iv) Remove, examine and record the quantitative information on the liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and adrenal glands. Save at least 150 grams each of kidney and liver for toxicological evaluation. Remove the gastrointestinal tract and examine the contents. Note any food present and its degree of digestion. Save the contents of the stomach. If a more detailed toxicological evaluation is desired, the contents of other regions of the gastrointestinal tract may be saved. Examine the rectum and anus for burns, lacerations or other injuries.Locate and retain any foreign bodies present. Examine the aorta, inferior vena cava and iliac vessels;

    (v) Examine the organs in the pelvis, including ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, testes, prostate gland, seminal vesicles, urethra and urinary bladder. Trace any injuries before removing the organs. Remove these organs carefully so as not to injure them artifactually. Note any evidence of previous or current pregnancy, miscarriage or delivery. Save any foreign objects within the cervix, uterus, vagina, urethra or rectum;

    (vi) Palpate the head and examine the external and internal surfaces of the scalp, noting any trauma or haemorrhage. Note any skull fractures. Remove the calvarium carefully and note epidural and subdural haematomas. Quantify, date and save any haematomas that are present. Remove the dura to examine the internal surface of the skull for fractures. Remove the brain and note any abnormalities. Dissect and describe any injuries. Cerebral cortical atrophy, whether focal or generalized, should be specifically commented upon;

    (vii) Evaluate the cerebral vessels. Save at least 150 grams of cerebral tissue for toxicological evaluation. Submerge the brain in fixative prior to examination, if this is indicated;

    (viii) Examine the neck after the heart and brain have been removed and the neck vessels have been drained. Remove the neck organs, taking care not to fracture the hyoid bone. Dissect and describe any injuries. Check the mucosa of the larynx, pyriform sinuses and esophagus, and note any petechiae, edema or burns caused by corrosive substances. Note any articles or substances within the lumina of these structures. Examine the thyroid gland. Separate and examine the parathyroid glands, they are readily identifiable;

    (ix) Dissect the neck muscles, noting any haemorrhage. Remove all organs, including the tongue. Dissect the muscles from the bones and note any fractures of the hyoid bone or thyroid or cricoid cartilages;

    (x) Examine the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Examine the vertebrae from their anterior aspects and note any fractures, dislocations, compressions or haemorrhages. Examine the vertebral bodies. Cerebrospinal fluid may be obtained if additional toxicological evaluation is indicated;

    (xi) In cases in which spinal injury is suspected, dissect and describe the spinal cord. Examine the cervical spine anteriorly and note any haemorrhage in the paravertebral muscles. The posterior approach is best for evaluating high cervical injuries. Open the spinal canal and remove the spinal cord. Make transverse sections every 0.5 cm and note any abnormalities;

  9. After the autopsy has been completed, record which specimens have been saved. Label all specimens with the name of the deceased, the autopsy identification number, the date and time of collection, the name of the prosector and the contents. Carefully preserve all evidence and record the chain of custody with appropriate release forms;

    (i) Perform appropriate toxicologic tests and retain portions of the tested samples to permit retesting;

    a. Tissues: 150 grams of liver and kidney should be saved routinely. Brain, hair and adipose tissue may be saved for additional studies in cases where drugs, poisons or other toxic substances are suspected;

    b. Fluids: 50 cc (if possible) of blood (spin and save serum in all or some of the tubes), all available rine, vitreous humor and stomach contents should be saved routinely. Bile, regional gastrointestinal tract contents and cerebrospinal fluid should be saved in cases where drugs, poisons or toxic substances are suspected. Oral, vaginal and rectal fluid should be saved in cases of suspected sexual assault;

    (ii) Representative samples of all major organs, including areas of normal and any abnormal tissue, should be processed histologically and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (and other stains as indicated). The slides, wet tissue and paraffin blocks should be kept indefinitely;

    (iii) Evidence that must be saved includes:

    a. All foreign objects, including projectiles, projectile fragments, pellets, knives and fibres. Projectiles must be subjected to ballistic analysis;

    b. All clothes and personal effects of the deceased, worn by or in the possession of the deceased at the time of death;

    c. Fingernails and under nail scrapings;

    d. Hair, foreign and pubic, in cases of suspected sexual assault;

    e. Head hair, in cases where the place of death or location of the body prior to its discovery may be an issue;

  10. After the autopsy, all unretained organs should be replaced in the body, and the body should be well embalmed to facilitate a second autopsy in case one is desired at some future point;
  11. The written autopsy report should address those items that are emphasized in boldface type in the protocol. At the end of the autopsy report should be a summary of the findings and the cause of death. This should include the prosector's comments attributing any injuries to external trauma, therapeutic efforts, postmortem change, or other causes. A full report should be given to the appropriate authorities and to the deceased's family.



Written by Dr. Dinesh Rao


An autopsy, also known as a post-mortem examination consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present. It is usually performed by a specialized medical doctor called a Pathologist.

Autopsies are either performed for legal or medical purposes. For example, a forensic autopsy is carried out when the cause of death may be a criminal matter, while a clinical or academic autopsy is performed to find the medical cause of death and is used in cases of unknown or uncertain death, or for research purposes.

  1. On arrival, the Dead Body will be photographed and recorded by the Morgue Supervisor, which should include all particulars of Identification, Circumstances, Time and date of arrival and a Record of the belongings.
  2. All belongings will be recorded and stored for safe-keeping.
  3. The Morgue Technician under supervision opens the body bag, notes the kind of clothes and their position on the body before they are removed.
  4. The body will them be labeled for identification purpose.
  5. All identified dead bodies will be recorded in a register for reference.
  6. The dead body will then be transferred to the Morgue, after preliminary examination by Police.
  7. The deaths will be reported to the Coroner by the Police, Hospital, Relatives or Friends of the deceased.


  1. The Mortuary Supervisor verifies the dead bodies received against the list of cases received from the Pathologist office.
  2. Undress the body by removing clothing and other belongings.
  3. Label and store all belongings in the storage bags and forward to the Supervisor to place in the vault.
  4. The Supervisor with the assistance of Mortuary Attendants photograph each body and record all identifiable features, marks, etc.
  5. The dead body is then labeled by the Attendant, with a tag around the ankle or wrist with a plastic band to include name, date, time of arrival and circumstances of death.
  6. The Supervisor conducts a second inspection to verify the information recorded and transfer such information in the Register.
  7. The register is then sign-off by the Attendant and Supervisor.
  8. The body is then bagged and placed in the refrigerator for storage.
Deaths reported to the Coroner/Police/Magistrate/Procurator Fiscal/medical Examiner
  1. 1. No Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death has been Completed because:
  2. 1.1.l The deceased was not attended by a Medical Practitioner during his last illness.
  3. 1.2.l The deceased was attended by a Medical Practitioner during his last illness but the medical practitioner is unable to complete a Certificate of the Cause of death, usually because he is uncertain of the Cause of Death.
  1. Deaths related to Industrial Disease or Industrial accidents.
  2. Deaths due to Accidents eg.MVA.
  3. Deaths in Police Custody.
  4. Homicide/Suicide.
  5. Deaths related to Abortion.
  6. Deaths occurring during Operation or before recovering from an Operation.
  7. Deaths related to Poisoning.


  1. The body will be removed from the refrigerator to the autopsy room prior to the Post Mortem.
  2. All belongings will be recorded and stored for safe-keeping.
  3. The Mortuary Supervisor will direct and oversee the preparation process.


  1. Remove the body from storage and place in the autopsy room for Post Mortem.
  2. Remove the body from the bag and place on the autopsy table.
  3. Place all equipment and tools on the work tables, used in Post Mortem examinations.


  1. These examinations are performed under a legal authority Coroner /Procurator Fiscal/Police/Magistrate/Medical Examiner  and do not require the consent of relatives of the deceased.
  2. The Coroner Prepares the List of Cases for the PM examination for a scheduled date, the same is also informed to the Deceased’s legal Heirs for Funeral Related arrangements.
  3. The Coroner Prepares the List after his Completion of Inquiry into the Cause of Death in assistance with the Police, Hospitals, Public or any other agencies.
  4. The Coroner List to include copy of Details of Inquest.
  5. The Pathologist and Attendants should wear fairly simple protective equipment, including scrub suits, gowns, gloves (typically two pair), shoe covers, and clear plastic face shields.
  6. There are two parts to the physical examination of the body: the external and internal examination. Toxicology , Microbiology, Histopathology, Serology, biochemical tests and/or genetic testing often supplement these and frequently assist the Pathologist in assigning the cause or causes of death.


  1. A general description of the body as regards ethnicity , sex , age, hair color and length, eye color and other distinguishing features birthmarks , old scar tissue , moles , etc) is then made. A handheld voice recorder or a standard examination form is normally used to record this information.
  2. Next, any evidence such as residue, flakes of paint or other material is collected from the external surfaces of the body.
  3. Ultraviolet light may also be used to search body surfaces for any evidence not easily visible to the naked eye.
  4. If it is believed there may be any significant residue on the hands, for instance gunpowder , a separate paper sack is put around each hand and taped shut around the wrist.
  5. Samples of hair, nails and the like are taken.
  6. The body may also be Radio-graphically imaged

Internal examination

  1. If not already in place, a plastic or rubber brick called a "body block" is placed under the back of the body, causing the arms and neck to fall backward whilst stretching and pushing the chest upward to make it easier to cut open. This gives the prosector, a pathologist or assistant, maximum exposure to the trunk . After this is done, the internal examination begins. The internal examination consists of inspecting the internal organs of the body for evidence of trauma or other indications of the cause of death. For the internal examination there are a number of different approaches available:
  2. a large and deep Y-shaped incision can be made starting at the top of each shoulder and running down the front of the chest, meeting at the lower point of the sternum This is the approach most often used in forensic autopsies so as to allow maximum exposure of the neck structures for later detailed examination. This could prove essential in cases of suspected strangulation
  3. a T-shaped incision made from the tips of both shoulder, in a horizontal line across the region of the collar bones to meet at the sternum (breastbone) in the middle. This initial cut is used more often to produce a more aesthetic finish to the body when it is re-constituted as stitching marks will not be as apparent as with a Y-shaped incision
  4. a single vertical cut is made from the middle of the neck (in the region of the 'adam's apple' on a male body)
  5. In all of the above cases the cut then extends all the way down to the pubic bone (making a deviation to the left side of the navel).
  6. An electric saw or Rib shearing Forceps is often used to open the chest cavity .  It is also possible to utilize a simple scalpel blade. The cut should be through the ribs on the lateral sides of the chest cavity to allow the sternum and attached ribs to be lifted as one chest plate; this is done so that the heart and lungs can be seen in situ and that the heart, in particular the pericardial sac is not damaged or disturbed from opening. A scalpel is used to remove any soft tissue that is still attached to the posterior side of the chest plate. Now the lungs and the heart are exposed. The chest plate is set aside and will be eventually replaced at the end of the autopsy.
  7. At this stage the organs are exposed. Usually, the organs are removed in a systematic fashion. Making a decision as to what order the organs are to be removed will depend highly on the case in question. Organs can be removed in several ways: The first is the en masse technique of letulle whereby all the organs are removed as one large mass. The Modified Rokitansky’s Method is best followed whearin the Inmtestines are Removed First and  then all the Organs Enmasse are removed. The Pathologist Discreation should not violated the basic Purpose of Autopsy.
  8. One such method may be adopted as follows.  The pericardial sac is opened to view the heart. Blood for chemical analysis may be removed from the inferior vena cava or the pulmonary veins. Before removing the heart, the pulmonary artery is opened in order to search for a blood clot. The heart can then be removed by cutting the inferior vena cava, the pulmonary veins, the aorta and pulmonary artery, and the superior vena cava. This method leaves the aortic arch intact, which will make things easier for the embalmer.
  9. The left lung is then easily accessible and can be removed by cutting the bronchus, artery, and vein at the hilum. The right lung can then be similarly removed. The abdominal organs can be removed one by one after first examining their relationships and vessels.
  10. Some pathologists, however, prefer to remove the organs all in one "block". Then a series of cuts, along the vertebral column, are made so that the organs can be detached and pulled out in one piece for further inspection and sampling. During autopsies of infants, this method is used almost all of the time.
  11. All the organs are examined, weighed and tissue samples in the form of slices are taken. Even major blood vessels are cut open and should be inspected at this stage.
  12. The stomach The stomach and intestinal contents are examined and weighed. This could be useful to find the cause and time of death, due to the natural passage of food through the bowel during digestion.
  13. The stomach A brain autopsy demonstrating signs of meningitis . The forceps (center) are retracting the dura mater (white). Underneath the dura mater are the leptomeninges , which appear to be edematous and have multiple small hemorrhagic foci.
  14. The stomach The body block that was used earlier to elevate the chest cavity is now used to elevate the head. To examine the brain , an incision is made from behind one ear, over the crown of the head, to a point behind the other ear. When the autopsy is completed, the incision can be neatly sewn up and is not noticed when the head is resting on a pillow in an open casket funeral . The scalp is pulled away from the skull in two flaps with the front flap going over the face and the rear flap over the back of the neck. The skull is then cut with an electric saw to create a "cap" that can be pulled off, exposing the brain. The brain is then observed in situ. Then the brain's connection to the cranial nerves and spinal cord are severed, and the brain is then lifted out of the skull for further examination. If the brain needs to be preserved before being inspected, it is contained in a large container of formalin (10 percent solution of formaldehyde and 0.9% NACL in water ) for at least two but preferably four weeks. This not only preserves the brain, but also makes it firmer allowing easier handling without corrupting the tissue.

Reconstitution of the body

An important component of the autopsy is the reconstitution of the body such that it can be viewed, if desired, by relatives of the deceased following the procedure. After the examination, the body has an open and empty chest cavity with chest flaps open on both sides, the top of the skull is missing, and the skull flaps are pulled over the face and neck. It is unusual to examine the face, arms, hands or legs internally.

  1. As per the Human Tissue Act specification in other countries all organs and tissue must be returned to the body unless permission is given by the family to retain any tissue for further investigation.
  2. The Tissues are Put in a plastic bag to prevent leakage and put back into the Respective Cavities and than closed.
  3. The internal body cavity is lined with cotton wool or an appropriate material.
  4. The chest flaps are then closed and sewn back together and the skull cap is sewed back in place.
  5. Then the body may be wrapped in a shroud and it is common for relatives of the deceased to not be able to tell the procedure has been done when the deceased is viewed in a funeral parlor after embalming
  6. The body is than handed over to the Respective Funeral home/Undertaker as per the written request of the Legal Heirs of the deceased.


The body is then cleaned after examination of wounds if any, weighed, and measured in preparation for the internal examination.

After the funeral home has been called, the Morgue Attendant cleans up the autopsy suite with a mop and bucket.

He arranges for the sterilization of instruments and tides up for the next days PM examination.

The Morgue Supervisor monitor the removal of all the Samples collected and  the Dispatch through the Proper Channel.


Days to weeks later, the processed microscopic slides are examined by the attending pathologist, who renders the final diagnoses and dictates the report.

The final Cause of Death report to be issued within 4-6weeks after the actual autopsy.