From Incision to Inspection: A Comprehensive Guide to Who Performs Autopsies

The word “autopsy” originates from the Greek words “auto” which means “self” and “opsia” which means “viewing.” An autopsy is a surgical procedure conducted on a dead body to determine the cause of death. This process involves cutting open the body to examine the internal organs, tissues, and fluids. Autopsies can be performed for a variety of reasons such as medical research, legal investigations, and medical education.

The process of performing an autopsy is known as post-mortem examination or necropsy in veterinary medicine. During this process, the body is examined by a medical professional called a pathologist. The pathologist will make a series of incisions in various parts of the body to examine the organs and tissues. The process of conducting an autopsy is a delicate and intricate process that requires specialized skills and knowledge.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss who performs autopsies and the various requirements involved in the process.


Pathologists are doctors who specialize in the study of diseases and conditions through the examination of tissues and other bodily fluids. They are qualified to perform autopsies and conduct post-mortem examinations. Pathologists work in various settings such as hospitals, medical schools, research institutions, and forensic laboratories.

To become a certified pathologist, one must complete a four-year undergraduate degree in medicine or related field, followed by a residency program in pathology, which can take up to 5 years. Pathologists must also pass a certification exam administered by the American Board of Pathology.

Forensic Pathologists:

Forensic pathologists are medical professionals who specialize in the application of medical knowledge to legal investigations. These specialists work closely with law enforcement agencies and the coroner’s office to determine the cause of death in cases of homicide, suicide, and accidental deaths.

Forensic pathologists are required to have specialized training in forensic pathology, which involves an additional one to two years of post-graduate study. They must also pass a certification exam administered by the American Board of Pathology.


A coroner is a government official responsible for investigating the cause and circumstances of sudden, unexpected, or violent deaths. Coroners typically have a background in law enforcement or medicine and are elected or appointed to their positions.

In some jurisdictions, coroners are required to be licensed medical professionals with specialized training in forensic pathology. In other areas, coroners work closely with medical examiners or pathologists to perform autopsies and determine the cause of death.

Medical Examiner:

A medical examiner is a licensed physician who specializes in investigating the cause of death in cases of sudden or unexpected deaths. Medical examiners are employed by the government, typically at the county or state level.

Medical examiners must have a degree in medicine, and they must be licensed to practice medicine. They must also complete additional training and certification in forensic pathology.

In some areas, medical examiners work closely with coroners to perform autopsies and determine the cause of death. In other jurisdictions, medical examiners may be responsible for overseeing the entire autopsy process.

Mortuary Attendant:

A mortuary attendant, also known as a mortician or funeral director, is responsible for the preparation and handling of bodies after death. Mortuary attendants work in funeral homes and are responsible for embalming, dressing, and preparing the body for cremation or burial.

Although mortuary attendants are not qualified to perform autopsies, they may be called upon to assist in the autopsy process by moving the body, setting up equipment and preparing instruments.


Autopsies are essential in determining the cause of death and providing closure for families of the deceased. Performing an autopsy requires specialized training, education and experience. Pathologists, forensic pathologists, coroners, medical examiners, and mortuary attendants all play a crucial role in the autopsy process.

Whether the autopsy is conducted for medical research, legal investigation, or medical education, the process of examining a person’s body after death must be conducted with care, respect and professionalism. By understanding who performs autopsies and the various requirements involved, we can appreciate the complexity and importance of this crucial medical practice.

Jameson Hunter

Xin chào, tôi là Jameson Hunter, một chuyên gia chia sẻ kiến thức và nhà sáng tạo nội dung với hơn 10 năm kinh nghiệm trong lĩnh vực này. Tôi sinh ngày 14/05/1989 tại Đà Nẵng, và tốt nghiệp Đại Học Bách Khoa Đà Nẵng. Tôi đam mê giải đáp và review các sản phẩm, dịch vụ trong nhiều lĩnh vực khác nhau, và luôn cố gắng chia sẻ những kiến thức hữu ích nhất cho cộng đồng. Cảm ơn vì đã đọc giới thiệu của tôi.

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