What is the difference between a hospital autopsy and a medical examiner autopsy?
Answer - The hospital autopsy is often performed on individuals in whom the disease causing death is known. The purpose of the autopsy is to determine the extent of the disease and/or the effects of therapy and the presence of any undiagnosed disease of interest or that might have contributed to death.
The next-of-kin must give permission for the autopsy and may limit the extent of the dissection (for example the chest and abdomen only, excluding the head).
A medicolegal (forensic) autopsy is ordered by the coroner or medical examiner as authorized by law with the statutory purpose of establishing the cause of death and answer other medicolegal questions. The next of kin do not authorize this and may not limit the extent of the autopsy. Common questions include the identity of the deceased person, the time of injury and death, and the presence of medical evidence (for example bullets, hair, fibers, semen). Observations made at autopsy elucidate how and by what weapon lethal injury was inflicted. During the course of the forensic autopsy, blood and other body fluids are routinely obtained to check for alcohol and other drugs. The forensic autopsy should be complete (including the head, chest, abdomen and other parts of the body as indicated).