UCSF Health provides the Autopsy Service as a courtesy to its physicians and their patients’ families for deaths that occur within UCSF Medical Center (Parnassus Moffitt-Long, Mission Bay, and Mount Zion UCSF hospitals). Autopsies must be endorsed by an attending physician and must have signed consent from the legal next-of-kin (or designated durable power of attorney for healthcare). The Office of Patient Relations (415-353-1936) may assist the physicians and families in completing the necessary paperwork.

Autopsies usually are performed within one business day of obtaining written consent. A complete autopsy involves dissection of organs from all body cavities—chest, abdomen and cranium. In some cases, however, the family may restrict the examination to a specific area of interest. In no case are incisions made in the face, hands or any other part of the body that may be visible at funeral. At autopsy the dissected internal organs are preserved for storage until further study is no longer necessary (and the organs eventually are cremated). Immediately following the autopsy, the body cavities are closed with sutures and the designated mortuary notified. Morticians are expert at preparing the body for funeral; there will be no evidence of prior autopsy—even with open casket.

A final report listing of all the findings at autopsy is sent to the referring physician within one month of the procedure. Typically, this patient-care physician discusses the final report with the family and interprets the anatomic findings within the particular clinical context. The legal next-of-kin is entitled to a copy of the final report and may request one from UCSF Medical Records (415-353-2221).