A post-mortem examination or autopsy is an examination of the body following death.
It is carried out by a pathologist, who are doctors that are experts in finding out the cause of death. The examination is carried out as soon as possible after death and every effort is made to minimise any delay.
If a coroner decides that an investigation into a death is necessary, a pathologist will normally carry out a post-mortem examination of the body.
If the post-mortem examination shows the cause of death, the coroner will contact the Registrar of Births and Deaths stating the cause of death and the registration service will contact you to make an appointment.
If it was not possible to find out the cause of death from the post-mortem examination, or the death is found to be unnatural, the coroner has to hold an inquest.
Post-mortem results and reports
The deceased's next of kin are usually told the results of the post mortem on the same working day that it's completed. The coroner will often be able to determine at this stage whether further investigations are needed.
Family members can apply for a copy of the post-mortem report. However, family members should be warned that post mortem reports are written in very clinical language and contain details that can be distressing. We recommend that you book a visit to your GP so they can explain the report to you.