An autopsy also known as a post-mortem examination consists of a thorough examination of the deceased body to determine the cause of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present. This surgical procedure is usually performed by a medical doctor called a pathologist.
An autopsy is not generally necessary when death is known to be the result of natural causes, an adequate medical history exists, and there are no signs of foul play. In the case of unnatural death, an autopsy becomes an invaluable tool in investigating the cause and manner of demise. In particular cases, it becomes legal evidence for the judiciary to make life-changing decisions.
The laws regarding when and under what circumstance an autopsy is required differ as per states and countries. In India, it is done for every unnatural death including death from an accidental fall, murder, suicide, unidentified body found, and more. It is important to fall the protocols and guidelines. Information about post mortem examination or autopsy is given by the government here.
Coming to the procedure of an autopsy, there will be an external examination and an internal examination. The former is a careful inspection of the body, which helps identify or locate any evidence or suggests the cause of demise. At this stage, they note the characteristics such as the color of the eye, height, age, and sex. The pathologists then look for gun powder residue, scars, tattoos, or injuries. Everything is recorded thoroughly.
For the Internal examination, the chest, abdominal organs, and brain(if required) are removed and dissected. They even remove internal organs for testing and collect samples of tissue or fluids of the body, such as blood.
An autopsy usually takes 2-4 hours, but in some cases, one may have to wait for the detailed results. One should always remember to follow the state and government guidelines for an autopsy.