Department of Pathology | Autopsy Pathology

The Department of Pathology provides Autopsy services for Boston Children’s Hospital patients.

What is Autopsy Pathology?

Autopsy Pathology is the arm of Anatomic Pathology that involves examination of the body after death.

What is the purpose of Autopsy Pathology?

There are two major reasons that patients and doctors request autopsy examination:

  1. In order to find out information about diseases present at the time of death
  2. In order to harvest tissues involved by disease processes for the purpose of future research

When is Autopsy Pathology offered?

We perform autopsy examinations Monday through Friday, and on Saturday mornings. We provide services beyond our normal hours for certain rare diseases and for specific religious practices.

For whom do we provide Autopsy Pathology services?

We offer autopsy services for Boston Children’s Hospital patients who are hospitalized and for patients who pass outside of our hospital premises. Under some conditions we also perform autopsies for patients from other hospitals by mutual agreement between the Departments of Pathology.

What is the process for requesting Autopsy Pathology?

Boston Children’s Hospital provides a specific consent form that is completed by family members or guardians and by clinical caregivers. This applies to all patients we examine, regardless of where the patient dies and whether or not the patient was a prior Boston Children’s Hospital patient. Autopsy examinations require the permission of the patient’s family or guardian and are conducted in a manner that accommodates their wishes and without interfering with memorial services.

What are the contents of Boston Children’s Hospital’s autopsy consent form?

There are three main sections that must be completed by families or guardians. The first section addresses specific areas of the body to be examined or not examined. The second section specifies whether the organs that are removed for evaluation are to be kept in the Department of Pathology, possibly for additional later testing, or whether after taking samples for microscopic examination and special testing the organs are to be returned to the body prior to funeral home release. The third section is for indicating whether family/guardian grants permission for possible future research.

What is the cost of performing Autopsy Pathology?

Autopsies are offered free of charge for our patients.

What costs are not covered by the Department of Pathology?

We do not cover funeral home transportation costs, costs that involve services and rituals after death, or special testing that is not needed to determine the cause of death.

For patients who pass outside the hospital, and for whom Autopsy Pathology is requested, how are transportation arrangements made?

Transportation to and from Boston Children’s Hospital is arranged by families, and does not involve the Department of Pathology.

Are there circumstances that prohibit us from performing Autopsy Pathology?

We do not perform autopsy examination on patients that fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. We do not perform autopsies on non-Boston Children’s Hospital patients without prior agreement between the two hospitals’ Departments of Pathology. We do not perform autopsies on non-Boston Children’s Hospital patients where families are concerned about the quality of medical care before death.

For additional information regarding autopsy examination, please contact Boston Children’s Hospital Department of Pathology.