How Much Does an Autopsy Cost?
An autopsy is a surgical and invasive examination of a deceased person, the purpose of which is to know exactly the cause of death and how it happened. A complete autopsy requires an evaluation of the external parts of the body, an internal examination of its chest and abdominal cavities, as well as its head or cranium. If it is a non-forensic autopsy, the examination may be limited only to specific areas of interest and concern for the family of the deceased.
Only certified forensic pathologists should perform an autopsy. These people, who are actually physicians, are specifically trained to identify the anatomic changes caused by the disease and its conditions.
How much does it cost?
- Depending on the company, the experience of the physician, and the detail of the autopsy, the costs of an autopsy are going to range anywhere from $2,000 to as much as $5,000.
- A virtual autopsy, a newer form of technology, can cost $900 to $1,500.
- According to usaforensics.com, the basic cost of a private autopsy is $2,000.
- Americanautopsy.com offers a basic medical autopsy for $3,500 while a forensic autopsy can cost $4,000.
What is going to be included?
- An autopsy will normally be done by an American Forensics Board Certified Forensic Pathologist.
- A private or basic autopsy requested by the family of the deceased who wants to know the cause of death and to obtain significant information about inherited or genetic diseases usually involves the review of appropriate medical records, basic medical photography and microscopic examination.
- A forensic autopsy can involve forensic photography, a review of appropriate medical records, routine toxicology samples, investigative and police reports and an interface with the family’s lawyer.
- An exhumation autopsy is when the body is removed from the grave to be examined.
- During a virtual autopsy, the body will be sent through a CT scan and later evaluated.
- During the autopsy procedure, the pathologist first examines the body for clues leading to the cause of death. Then, he or she proceeds by evaluating the deceased’s internal organs, drawing out samples as required to further examine the tissues under a microscope.
- It takes around two to four hours to conduct the autopsy.
- As a rule, the atmosphere in the autopsy room should maintain a certain degree of dignity and respect for the deceased.
What are the extra costs?
- The family of the deceased may have to pay additional fees should they want to get specialized services, such as neuropathology examination, toxicology and other specific or pertinent diagnostic techniques and consultations.
- The requesting party may also have to pay additional fees for travel expenses to non-local destinations where evidence of death may be found.
Tips to know:
- In the case of a private autopsy, only the legal next of kin or a trusted friend of the deceased can request an autopsy provided that he or she has a durable power of attorney to authorize such an examination. The legal next of kin that consents to an autopsy should follow this order:
- Surviving spouse
- The deceased’s child of legal age
- Guardian or court that takes care of a minor child
- A parent of the deceased
- A guardian
- Other closest relative
- Any person, who assumes the custody of and accountability for the burial of the body.
- Autopsies allow doctors to get a better understanding of diseases and how the person died, consequently giving them the opportunity to improve medical care. If there is a disease, condition, or genetic disorder that runs in your family, you can greatly benefit from an autopsy. This could give the remaining family members information that could eventually save their lives
- An autopsy should be conducted as soon as possible after the person’s death. Final reports can take up to 60 days to complete.
- Private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid will not cover this type of procedure.
- Local governments will only order an autopsy if it was deemed to be a sudden, unexpected or violent death. The Medical Examiner will generally make this decision based on the case. An autopsy will almost always be done in the case of murder or if there is scientific evidence that can be obtained.
- In 2004, 94% of deaths did not receive an autopsy.
- There are some religions that forbid an autopsy of the deceased.
Questions to ask
- Should the hospital where the deceased was treated before his death seek permission from the family before conducting the autopsy?
- Why is it that some families refuse to allow autopsy on their deceased loved one?
- How soon can we get the autopsy result?
How can I save money?
- Contract fees for hospitals and the Justice of the Peace can be negotiated.
- If a family member died in the hospital, you do not have to spend anything for the autopsy at all. Doctors do it for free because even as they examine the deceased, they learn something about the ailment, getting some idea of how to improve medical care. Only private autopsies involve payment and charges.