Post Mortem Law and Legal Definition

Post mortem is a Latin term meaning "after death". It is an examination of a dead body to determine cause of death, often called an autopsy. When the cause of death is undetermined or not certified by an attending physician, the coroner will hold an inquisition or inquest, sometimes with the assistance of a jury, over the body of any person who may have come to a violent or suspicious death, or who has died in prison. In rare cases when the cause of death still is undetermined, the coroner may hold a hearing as part of the inquest. A coroner has the power to summon people to the inquest.

First the pathologist examines the external body; this may involve photos and x-rays. An incision in then made in the chest and the internal organs are removed and examined. Small tissue samples may be further examined under the microscope.

Clear communications and written consent applies to the retention of tissue and body parts to both post mortems, those ordered by the coroner and those agreed upon between relatives and hospitals. Generally, organs or tissues cannot be taken from the body for any purpose except to establish the cause of death unless written consent is given by relatives.