A post mortem examination can provide families with valuable information. You may find it helpful to know as much as possible about why your baby or child has died.
Post mortems take place in a mortuary and are carried out by a pathologist who is a doctor with specialist training.
The post mortem examination will be carried out as soon as possible after consent has been given, usually within 72 hours, and is conducted with respect and dignity. Results are usually available within six weeks.
A post mortem examination, or autopsy, involves a careful external examination of the body, followed by a detailed internal examination during which the internal organs are removed, weighed and inspected.
Small samples of tissue, usually less than 1cm3, and fluid are taken for testing. It is possible to consent for these samples to be used for research without anything further being taken from the child’s body. Written consent is needed for anything else to be kept for further study or research. Otherwise, all tissue and organs will be returned to the child’s body.
Some tests may take several weeks, and if tissue and organs are to be reunited with the child’s body, the funeral may be delayed. Alternatively you can agree to the hospital respectfully disposing of the tissue or organs after testing is complete.
Photographs, x-rays and digital video images may be taken during the examination to provide a visual record of findings. These are normally kept as part of the records.
You may worry what will happen to your child at post mortem and whether you will see your child again. There is no reason why you cannot see your child after post mortem, and if dressed, the incisions made on the child’s body and head will not be visible. A child’s face, hands and feet will not normally be affected by the examination.