A post mortem is the examination of the body after death in order to determine the cause of death. Post mortems are carried out by pathologists, and provide useful information about how, when and why someone died. If a family member has died and a post mortem is to be conducted, hospital bereavement officers can offer you support and advice, and can act as the main point of contact between you and the staff carrying out the post mortem.
A coroner will request a post mortem if the cause of death is unknown, or following a sudden, violent or unexpected death. The aim of the post mortem is to find out how the person died and decide whether an inquest is needed. You will not be asked to give consent for a post mortem, since coroners are required by law to carry it out where a death is suspicious, unnatural or sudden.
A post mortem will be carried out as soon as possible, usually within a few days of the person’s death. If you wish, you are able to see the body after the post mortem has been completed. The pathologist will then write a report on the findings, and the coroner’s office will let you know the outcome. If you want a full copy of the report, you can request this from the coroner’s office, but there may be a fee.