A post-mortem examination is referred to a medical examination of a dead body to establish the cause of death, also known as autopsy. D. Marinescu (2014) mentions that it is a normal medical procedure involving diagnosis of tissues and organs of the body after death, in order to clarify the cause and the manner of death. In this report, the significance of post-mortem examinations on human and animal will be discussed. Human post-mortems are conducted by doctors that are known as a pathologist while animal post-mortems are performed by veterinarian.
The examination will be conducted upon request by a coroner or a hospital doctor. Coroner will request for post-mortem if the death is suspicious or cannot be explained with the crime scene. Hospital doctors usually request to conduct the post-mortem for scientific research or to gain better understanding on certain diseases that caused the death.
Post-mortem also performed as learning tool for medical students. Which means, there are two different types of post-mortem examination for humans which are medico-legal post-mortem examination and clinical post-mortem examination. Medico-legal post-mortem examination can only be conducted upon request of a coroner, which in Malaysia, the role is played by the Magistrate. Different country has different approach and procedures on the conduction of post-mortem.
Our country uses a modified version of English Coroner’s system (Kasinathan S., 1997). Some example of medico-legal cases is unexpected death, suspicious death that probably homicide or suicide, unknown caused and such death that occur during or after hospital procedure. (National Health Service, 2015). Therefore, this examination also helps to assess medical professionalism as the doctor’s mistake during hospital procedure can be find out and actions can be pursued legally if the deceased family wanted to. By doing medico-legal post-mortem, the deceased can be identified (if unknown or no family member detected), the crime scene can be reconstructed (if no witness available), the exact cause of injuries can be explained and documented, any unrevealed diseases that cause the death can be find out, the traces and evidences left on deceased body can be collected, hence helping in solving the case.
Clinical post-mortem examination usually carried out when the deceased died by natural causes. The examination will be requested by the hospital doctor or the family of the deceased. According to RB Kotabagi (2005), the aims of this type of post-mortem is to determine the nature of the disease when diagnosis before death does not help therefore need to gain better understanding about the disease. However, it can only be carried out with consent either given by the deceased (before death) or by the family of the deceased. This type of post-mortem usually has certain limits on which organs and tissues are allowed to be remove for further examination.A post-mortem examination usually conducted quickly within two to three days since the death of the deceased.
During post-mortem, some small tissue samples and needed organs will be taken out from the body and kept by the pathologist for further detail examination in order to get an accurate result. Some examinations, depends on the case, would take several weeks or even months to complete. For example, for some cases that the deceased have complex diseased such as Alzheimer’s disease, the brain will be sent to special unit for further examination. After the post-mortem completed, the pathologist will put the organs back to the body.
The body can only be collected by their family member when and post-mortem reports have been provided by the pathologist to the Coroner or the responsible medical staffs. Usually, pathology reports contain the medical history of the deceased, their death circumstances, the description of the internal organs and the external condition of the body, and the information of other tests that have been conducted on the body.In veterinary field, post-mortem examinations are known as necropsy. It is conducted on deceased animals in order to get to know the cause of death or to collect tissues and organs specimens for further diagnosis. The diagnosis may help to gain better understanding about a particular disease and veterinarians can come out with a better treatment to cure the disease. Some other significance of necropsies is to clarify the cause of production loss either due to existing diseases or management issues, to determine the efficiency of new medical or surgical techniques and therapies, to determine the efficiency of new medicines, to clarify the toxicity of therapeutic agents, to collect important and accurate information that can be added into national records of animal disease, to gain legal information and other same importance such as for humans autopsy. In conclusion, there are numerous amounts of benefits and significance of post-mortem examination.
Post-mortem allow doctors to assess, correct and confirm clinical diagnosis by improving their ability to diagnose and applying new medical knowledge for future practices. Besides, post-mortem provides the answers and information about particular diseases (such as cancer) that cannot be acquired by living subjects. Indirectly, the diagnosis could clarify the efficiency of new surgical techniques, drugs or therapies for the diseases and with that, surviving rate for the patients could increase too.
With the help of post-mortem, any chemical process that could cause changes on tissues or organs either inhaling or ingestion of chemicals, food additives or pollutants, could be find out (L. Rogozea, 2014). The probability of solving complex and criminal cases also could be improve with the evidences and traces collected from the post-mortem examinations. Thus, post-mortem examinations are very important as they not only provide the answers on how, when, and why it happened but also give hopes for medical educations and medical practices as it is one of the most helpful learning tool in the study of basic pathology including the veterinary field. However, it is still should be done legally and ethically with acceptable license from authorities.