How Is a Cause of Death Determined?

cause-death-determined Credit: Beverly & Pack/CC-BY 2.0

An autopsy is used to determine a cause of death and involves the examination of the body of a deceased person, reports MedicineNet. The abdomen, brain and chest are typically examined during the autopsy procedure, which is performed by a pathologist.

An internal and external examination of a dead body takes place during an autopsy, and the scope of the procedure can vary from investigating a specific organ to a much larger area of the body to determine cause of death, according to MedicineNet. The internal exam involves making a large incision into the body to facilitate the removal of body parts, including organs and glands such as the liver, adrenal glands, kidneys, aorta, pancreas and intestines for further examination. Additionally, autopsy involves the assessment of tissues and body fluids.

An autopsy is commonly used to investigate the presence of disease and the extent of it at the time of death, and it also provides information on the effectiveness of surgical and medical treatments. An autopsy is used to determine if the cause of a death was by accident, a natural occurrence, murder or suicide, states MedicineNet. Autopsies are performed in cases of suspicious deaths and if the death of a patient has occurred during medical treatment or while under medical supervision for less than one day.