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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an autopsy?
    An autopsy is a highly specialized medical examination of a deceased person and should be performed only by a board-certified pathologist. The process involves detailed external and internal examinations of the body. Each organ is removed from the body systematically, weighed, and examined thoroughly by the pathologist to inspect for signs of natural diseases like cancer, strokes, or coronary artery blockages. The pathologist will also look for any evidence of medical intervention and traumatic injuries to assess if these played any role in the person's death. ​ A microscopic examination will be conducted typically within a week following the autopsy in order to confirm/diagnose diseases identified during the autopsy and to look for any diseases invisible to the naked eye.
  • What is the difference between a forensic autopsy and a private autopsy?
    A forensic autopsy is performed ideally by a board-certified forensic pathologist under the jurisdiction of a coroner's office or medical examiner's office. These offices specialize in handling non-natural deaths -- homicides, suicides, and accidents. If a death appears to hold no suspicion and clearly appears to be due to natural illness like cancer or heart disease, then a coroner or medical examiner likely will choose not to accept jurisdiction for this case, and a forensic autopsy therefore will not be performed. ​ When a death does not qualify as a forensic case but the family still wishes that an autopsy be performed, a private autopsy is certainly an option. Private autopsies are performed ideally by board-certified pathologists at the request of the next-of-kin, and for a number of different reasons. ​ If you are searching to have a private autopsy performed on your loved one, look no further.
  • Why would I want an autopsy performed on my loved one?
    There are a number of different answers to this question, but ultimately what you must ask yourself is -- "why is it important to me?" ​ One of the most common reasons is simply curiosity or confirmation -- why did my loved one pass away? What were his or her medical conditions? Only an autopsy can definitively answer these questions. ​ Autopsy results may also carry genetic implications for close relatives. Sometimes an autopsy detects severe heart disease, cancer, or another disease that has shown to be hereditary and can help direct relatives' future health care and prevention. ​ To collect life insurance and other benefits, it may help to have an autopsy performed. ​ Was your loved one's medical care handled appropriately? An autopsy can help put those concerns at ease or address any potential inadequacies. ​ Was an organization or business entity potentially liable for your loved one's death? An autopsy may help with answering this question. ​ Or, do you simply disagree with the cause of death and want a second opinion? We can certainly help you with that.
  • Who is qualified to perform an autopsy on my loved one?
    In short, a board-certified pathologist. When you choose somebody to perform an autopsy on your loved one, it should be performed by a physician who is board-certified by the American Board of Pathology in Anatomic Pathology, Clinical Pathology, and Forensic Pathology. But what does that mean? In a doctor’s long journey through schooling, he must not only graduate from medical school. He also needs to complete residency training in his specified medical field (for example, pathology) and a fellowship to further specialize in a more specific medical field (again, in this case, forensic pathology). But, is this even enough? The short answer is no. Completing this training simply allows the doctor to become eligible for taking the board exams in these fields of medicine and, if he passes these rigorous exams, will then be deemed board-certified. But, is this enough? Not exactly. The American Board of Pathology now requires diplomates (board-certified doctors) to maintain their certification by completing at least 35 hours of annual education credits, obtaining recommendations from their peers, and passing patient safety training (and the list goes on). Doctors without board-certification failed their board exams and/or refused to take them. They also aren’t required to show that they are competent to practice medicine. In most states, a doctor without certification cannot obtain a permanent medical license to practice. Sadly, in Colorado, this isn’t true. In this day and age, nearly every practicing pathologist is board-certified. However, some are not and fly under the radar, hoping to trick people into thinking they are qualified to be practicing medicine. If you are seeking a pathologist to perform an autopsy on your loved one, your first step should be to confirm that the doctor is a board-certified physician. Only then can you trust the results of the postmortem exam. Our group features triple board-certified pathologists who will provide your family with accurate, timely results. When it comes to finding important answers, always go with the best.
  • Can I still have a funeral service for my loved one after an autopsy?
    At Postmortem Pathology, we use only board-certified pathologists and well trained, highly experienced autopsy technicians who will ensure that your loved one is given exceptional treatment so that you can honor your loved one with the funeral service of your choosing, including an open casket viewing.
  • How long does an autopsy take?
    An autopsy typically takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours but may take a bit longer in unusually difficult cases. ​ Immediately following the autopsy, our pathologist will prepare a document detailing the autopsy findings, including a preliminary cause of death, and issue that to the next-of-kin. ​ A microscopic examination will be conducted typically within a week of the autopsy, and the findings of this exam will be included within the autopsy report. ​ The official autopsy report normally is finalized within a month of the autopsy. An electronic, digitally signed copy will be emailed to you, and a signed paper copy will be mailed to you, upon request.
  • How much does an autopsy cost?
    A private autopsy generally runs between $3000 to $5000, depending on the company that you use and how many additional tests and procedures you wish to be performed. ​ Yes, this a steep fee, so that is why you want to choose the right company to ensure that an exceptional autopsy is performed, that your loved one is cared for with the utmost compassion, and that you haven't just thrown your money away. The most important question to ask is, "Is the doctor a board-certified pathologist?" ​ If the answer is "no", then keep searching. ​ At Postmortem Pathology, we use only board-certified pathologists because anything less than perfect isn't good enough. ​ Our private autopsies start at $3500 and include a full autopsy conducted by a board-certified forensic pathologist and an experienced autopsy technician. The fee also includes a full microscopic examination conducted by the pathologist. Blood samples will be saved for up to 12 months if the family chooses to order a toxicology workup.
  • Where will the autopsy be performed?
    This can be a big concern because part of the expense of having an autopsy performed is the transportation costs. Obviously, the farther away the autopsy location is from where your loved one has passed, the more expensive it will be. ​ Postmortem Pathology has locations established throughout the state of Colorado to help make things more convenient, and more affordable, for you! Our current locations include Colorado Springs, Longmont, Pueblo, and Castle Rock. ​ Contact us today for a free consultation!
  • What if I want a second opinion on my loved one's cause of death?
    Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done if the doctor, coroner, or medical examiner who signed the death certificate refuses to change his or her mind about the ruling on the cause and manner of death, even if there is sufficient information to support a more appropriate opinion. ​ What CAN be done in this case is to seek the services of an independent, board-certified pathologist who will take a look at your loved one's case and arrive at an honest, second opinion as to why he or she passed. These services may entail a review of medical records, the autopsy report (if an autopsy was performed), or an actual second autopsy, if warranted. ​ The biggest red flag is if the determination of your loved one's death was made at the hands of a doctor with no board certification, especially if this doctor is the one who performed the autopsy. To ensure this was not the case, make note of the doctors' names listed on both the death certificate AND the autopsy report. If either doctor is found to lack board certification, please call us immediately to assist with your case!
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