College of American Pathologists


  This page and related links last reviewed on February 12, 2014


Definition Definition

“Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succure vitae”– Giovanni Margagni
(This is the place where death delights to serve the living)

The autopsy is an external and internal examination of the body after death using review of medical records, surgical techniques, microscopy, and laboratory analysis. It is performed by a pathologist, a medical doctor specially trained for the procedure who is able to recognize the effects of disease on the body.

Books and Other Publications Books and Other Publications

Special Autopsy Dissections

Introduction to Autopsy Technique, Step-by-Step Diagrams (2005)

Quality Management in Anatomic Pathology: Promoting Patient Safety Through Systems Improvement and Error Reduction (2005)

Autopsy Performance and Reporting, 2nd Edition

Cause of Death and the Death Certificate, 2006

Autopsy: Aiding the Living By Understanding Death

Additional forensics information is available on the Forensics Committee Topic Center page

References References
Keys E, Brownlee C, Ruff M, Baxter C, Steele L, Green F. How well do we communicate autopsy findings to next of kin? Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2008;132:66-71.

Bove KE, Iery C. The role of the autopsy in medical malpractice cases, I. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2002;126(9):1023-1031.

Bove KE, Iery C. The role of the autopsy in medical malpractice cases, II. Arch
Pathol Lab Med
. 2002;126(9):1032-1035.

Shojania KG, Burton EC, McDonald KM, Goldman L. Changes in rates of autopsy detected diagnostic errors over time. JAMA. 2003;289:2849-2856.

Autopsy Links Autopsy Links

Internet Autopsy Database
(Johns Hopkins)

The Virtual Autopsy
(University of Leicester)
(Bern University)

Fetal Autopsy Resources
(Greenwood Genetic Center)

Resources Resources



Fee for Service Providers

  • View list of autopsy consultants
  • login arrowCAP members can request to be listed as a fee-for-service autopsy consultant. If you are a CAP member pathologist, log in to access the request form.

CAP Public Policies CAP Public Policies

login arrowPlease note that you must be logged in as a CAP member to view the policy.

Criteria for Autopsies

Restrictions on the Uses of Autopsy Materials

Payment and Performance of the Autopsy Service

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Certification of Death

Observation of an Autopsy as Punishment

Informed Consent for Autopsy

Consent for Autopsy Organ and Tissue Retention

Definition of the Autopsy

CAP Products CAP Products

Autopsy & Forensic Anthology of Classic Pathology Images (AFA) CD-ROMA Valuable New Resource for Your Laboratory

Order your Autopsy and Forensic Anthology of Classic Pathology Images (AFA) CD-ROM today.

Call the CAP at 800-232-4040 or 847-832-7000 option 1.

AUCD-Autopsy Pathology (Category 1 Continuing Medical Education)
This meets the LAP checklist requirement for peer education.
To order the AUCD Program, call customer service at 800-323-4040 option 1#.

AUCD Case List,

(PDF, 98 K)

Sample AU cases:

Metaplastic Breast Carcinoma

Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia (NAIT)

Post-Transplant Coronary Arteriopathy

Submit Your Potential Autopsy Cases to the CAP Autopsy Program
(PDF, 100 K)

Related Links Related Links