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Should I request that an autopsy be performed on my body?

Deborah Davis
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
An autopsy is a medical procedure that consists of a thorough examination performed on a body after death, to evaluate disease or injury that may be present and to determine the cause and manner of a person's death.  I would request an autopsy be performed for the following reasons:  a medical condition has not been previously diagnosed; there are questions about an unexpected death that appears due to natural causes; there are genetic diseases or conditions that may be at risk for developing; death is unexpected during medical, dental, surgical or obstetric procedures; the cause of death could affect legal matters; death occurs during experimental treatment
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Your clear orders for your immediate postlife adventures should include your wishes on an autopsy; if there's no mandatory medical reason to perform an autopsy, do you still want to have one done?

In deciding this, weigh two things with your other considerations. First, your children will be able to use the autopsy info to better gauge their own genetic health risks.

Second, if your doctors or the hospital staff made a medical error or misdiagnosed you, your autopsy could reveal their mistake. Sure, that info could be quickly shuttled to a team of rabid attorneys, but bringing the error to light might also save the next patient who's at risk of falling victim to the same mistake.

How often do these little surprises happen, by the way? An autopsy study found that doctors missed a problem in 25 percent of patients. And more than 66 percent of those missed problems would have likely led to different treatment (and possibly longer lives) had doctors discovered them in time.
YOU: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.