What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is a medical examination of a decedent. It consists of two parts: an external examination and an internal examination. 

During the external examination, the decedent is first examined as received (including any clothing present), again after removal of clothing, and yet again after being cleaned up. Throughout the examination process, the findings (traumatic injuries, disease states, etc.) are documented. Following the external examination, the decedent is then examined internally. All organs and tissues are examined for the presence of injuries and pre-existing natural diseases. 

In the course of an autopsy, samples of various organs, tissues and body fluids are retained for additional studies, if warranted. These studies include toxicology (testing for drugs, etc.), microscopic examination and microbiology (bacterial, viral, or fungal cultures). Other items of evidence may be collected, such as trace evidence, bullets, knife blades, ligatures, hair, fingernail clippings, sexual assault swabs, etc. 

Because Kenosha County has a lay-person Medical Examiner, all autopsies are performed at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office by a board-certified forensic pathologist.

Show All Answers

1. What do I do next?
2. Why is the Medical Examiner's Office involved?
3. Will I be able to view the body at the Medical Examiner's Office?
4. What is an autopsy?
5. Will an autopsy be performed?
6. Will an autopsy affect funeral arrangements?
7. Will I have to pay for an autopsy?
8. Who can I speak to about a death investigation?
9. How can I find out about the cause of death?
10. How can I retrieve my loved one's personal possessions?
11. When will my loved one's body be released?
12. How long does it take to get the results of the postmortem examination/ investigation?
13. How can I obtain a copy of the death certificate?
14. Can a "pending" death certificate be used as proof of death?
15. What if the funeral is being held out of state?
16. What is a Medical Examiner?