To develop a better understanding of the steps of an autopsy through exploration of interactive
To learn how a patient’s history and family wishes influence planning the autopsy
To critically think about the important information that can be gained from examining different
parts of the body during the autopsy
To prepare a formal autopsy plan
Patient Case History
As a team, you will be formulating an autopsy plan.
Become familiar with the steps of a general autopsy by exploring some interactive web sites:
o Information on autopsies from the Australian Museum Online
o Howstuffworks: How autopsies work
o Information on Autopsies from WebMD
As you investigate these sites, take notes or outline the steps of a general autopsy. You will be
transforming this outline into a specific autopsy plan, so keep these questions in mind as you do
o Are there steps in the autopsy that are optional or now always performed?
o What steps are always performed in an autopsy?
Once you have created an outline of a general autopsy, discuss the criteria that will be used to
determine what major parts of the body will need to be examined during an autopsy.
How will you decide if the brain should be examined?
Will there be any dissection of the extremities?
Will all the organs of the trunk be examined? When might only the abdominal organs be
examined? Just the thoracic organs? Remember that your criteria need to be based on BOTH
the family consent and clinical history.
Read the case history for this patient. Using the criteria developed in step 3 above; adjust your
outline to reflect how THIS autopsy will proceed. Keep some of the following questions in mind:
o What happens to the body before any incisions are made?
o Which parts of the body need to be examined on this patient?
o What types of samples (tissue, organ, fluid) need to be taken from this patient?
o How (and in what order) will the organs be removed?
o Once the organs are removed, how will they be examined?
o Once the organs are removed, what happens to the body?
Discuss the safety procedures that should be taken during the autopsy. How might disease be
spread to the living? What should the pathologist and autopsy assistants wear to protect
Based on the patient history, discuss and make notes about any organs that you think might
have abnormalities. Pay close attention to these organs during the autopsy!
Formalize your autopsy plan. Write it so you could give the plan to an autopsy technician, and
he or she could proceed with the autopsy procedures without needing you to clarify any of the
steps. Your plan should have a purpose for the autopsy and then the methods to be used.
Remember that recording data and maintaining safety are important parts of this procedure!
I will collect your finalized autopsy plans for submission to COSI. The forensic pathologist will
review them and discuss the plan during the videoconference on 1/27.