August 13, 2022

An autopsy is literally the 'inspection' of a corpse. A distinction is made here between external and internal autopsy. The internal autopsy is also called an autopsy, autopsy or autopsy. If a corpse has already been opened - for example due to an accident - the boundary between the two types of autopsy becomes blurred. The external autopsy in humans - in this article referred to as 'mortgage' - concerns an examination of the corpse in which the corpse is only examined externally but not opened. The external autopsy also includes taking body fluids or tissue with a needle or catheter, or entering it with a thermometer or other instrument, if this is at the service of the autopsy.

Purpose of the autopsy

Every death requires careful investigation into the nature and manner of death. The purpose of this is to be able to determine whether there is a non-natural cause of death (such as crimes and accidents) on which further action must be taken. In addition, the next of kin and practitioners often wonder what the cause of death is. and an answer to this can help in grieving and it can also be instructive for practitioners.

Research into natural or unnatural death

Before a corpse is examined, death must first be established. After all: as long as this has not happened, there is no question of a corpse. Incidentally, Dutch law does not determine who can determine death; so anyone can do that. The law prescribes that an autopsy is performed by the attending physician as soon as possible after the death. As a rule, this is the doctor who was the primary practitioner for a patient until his death, but in the event that someone was not being treated, this is usually the general practitioner. If the death occurs while this doctor is not available, this can also be taken over by his/her deputy (for example, the doctor of the out-of-hours GP). The medical examiner is convinced that the death was natural. An apparently natural cause of death in the period of healing from a trauma (e.g. bed complications such as pneumonia or blood poisoning due to bedsores) or if there is the death of a person who has undergone previous trauma (e.g. bed complications in a coma patient where the coma was caused by a previous trauma) should be approached as a (presumed) unnatural death. If the examining physician is convinced of a natural death, this physician can continue the inspection and complete the death certificates, namely a death certificate and a cause of death statement. If the doctor establishes that there has been no natural death, or if there is doubt about this, then the corpse has been 'seized' by operation of law from that moment on. This means that nothing can be changed about the corpse and the surroundings, and that a municipal coroner is immediately informed, who then takes over the inspection and follow-up actions. In practice, the municipal coroner will often also ask the police (forensic investigation). The reason that nothing can be done about a confiscated corpse is that otherwise traces of a possible crime, accident or treatment error can be lost. If it is clear in advance that the death is unnatural, the police are usually involved from the start and, for practical reasons, the municipal coroner is immediately called in, who informs the attending physician afterwards. A special situation is the finding of a body, ie the place and/or date of death cannot be determined with sufficient precision. Provided the attending physician is convinced that it is a natural death, he can perform the inspection