What is an Autopsy? All the five types of Autopsies explained!

Autopsy is generally regarded as post-mortem examination involves the examination of body parts, to identify the cause of death. In this article we are going


Shubham Kumar

1/29/20246 min read

Autopsy is generally regarded as post-mortem examination involves the examination of body parts, to identify the cause of death. We have seen this process in many movies; however, they never tell us about which type of autopsy they are performing. By autopsy, you only mean examination of body parts, however, you will be shocked to know that there are five different types of autopsies exist depending upon the circumstances. In this article we are going to uncover the telltale from the mysterious 5 different type of autopsies.

In order to explore 5 different types of autopsies, first you should know what exactly autopsy is

Autopsy, also known as a post-mortem examination or necropsy (in the case of animals), is a medical procedure that involves the thorough examination of a body after death. Autopsies are performed by pathologists (doctors who specialize in understanding the nature and causes of diseases) with the consent of the deceased person's family, or in some cases, by legal authorities.

The primary purpose of an autopsy is to determine the cause of death. It involves a detailed examination of the body, both externally and internally. During an autopsy, the pathologist examines organs, tissues, and bodily fluids to identify diseases, injuries, or other factors that might have contributed to the person's death. Autopsies can provide valuable information for medical research, legal investigations, and understanding diseases and their progression.

Five Different Types of Autopsies

five different type of autopsies includes medicolegal autopsy, clinical\pathological autopsy, psychological autopsy, virtual autopsy and academic autopsy. Among all these, medicolegal autopsy is the most prevalent among the world.

Medicolegal Autopsy

Medicolegal autopsy is generally practices to find out the cause of death of the deceased person. This practice is one of the most common and prevalent one among the world. Medico-Legal autopsy is also known as forensic autopsy. This autopsy is mandatory by the law in cases of unnatural death and death by sexual and other heinous offences. Though, this practice is widely preformed and know for its specialty to find out the cause of death, however, lacks on grounds of identification of deceased. In this autopsy, the identity of deceased person may or may not be identified.

Medicolegal Autopsy is important in investigation of unnatural death cases, suppose,

In India, the medico-legal autopsy is conducted under the CRPC Section 174 and 176. The consent is provided by the state magistrate.

Clinical/Pathological Autopsy

Clinical or pathological autopsy is generally practiced to increase the pathological knowledge and response of body towards complicated methodology treatments. Suppose, a patient is admitted in hospital. A doctor is treating that patient, nevertheless, the patient's body is not responding towards and methodology treatments. Eventually, the patient dies. Now the doctor, treating that patient will preform autopsy in order to under the flaws and flaunts in his treatments and increase pathological knowledge, so that it can be used to save other patients suffering from same disease. This autopsy is called clinical/pathological autopsy, and it is performed by the doctor treating the patient not by forensic pathologist.

This autopsy is not always necessary or mandatory to perform, its voluntary. The identity of the deceased is always known. The main aim is to expand the pathological knowledge by determining the cause of death and flaws and flaunts in treatments.

Psychological Autopsy

The psychological autopsy is specifically performed in the suicide cases. It is being reserved for the self-killing cases. Moreover, the psychological autopsy can also be done for the criminals performing the unlawful act, in order to gain insights about his interpretation about committing crime. This autopsy will help us to understand and find out the mental state of criminal during commission and omission of crime. However, this method is not usually accessed though, as for criminals, modern methods like Narco analysis, leer voice analysis, Truth Serum, Lia Detection, etc.

Now the thing is why psychological autopsy is prevalent in the cases of suicide? The answer is explained via example. Suppose there is a 23-year-old male, and he committed suicide by hanging himself on the ceiling fan of his house or room. When the FIR was registered, Police began its investigation and doctors began their analysis.

After the investigation, police quoted that "The death of 23-year-old male is due of strangulation, after he hanged himself on the ceiling of his house/room and there is no involvement of second and third party". The doctor quoted "The cause of death of this 23-year-old make is strangulation and he died through asphyxia, that is lack of oxygen and there are no traces of second and third party." Now the investigation seems to be closed, however, a senior officer asked the investigator to find the reason why he committed suicide.

In that scenario, the police will start interrogation from his family, relatives and neighbors. This interrogation will reveal the mental status of that person before committing suicide. The interrogation will further help the police to understand the mental status and to find the reason behind suicide. The psychological autopsy is conducted to understand the human psychiatry.

Virtual Autopsy

Virtual Autopsy is the innovative state of technology, where methods like 3DCT and MI scans are used to obtain the 3D image of internals of body. In western countries like Europe and America, virtual autopsy is preferred over conventional autopsy. In this method, the inside structure of the body is virtually created and analyzed to for desired analysis. Moreover, the autopsy doesn't include any incision, opening and closing. The most preferred technology in virtual autopsy is Radio Imaging Technique.

Key Features of Virtual Autopsy

Non-Invasive Analysis: Virtual autopsies eliminate the need for invasive procedures, offering a non-intrusive method for examining the internal structures of the body.

High-Resolution Imaging: The utilization of advanced imaging technologies ensures the creation of detailed and high-resolution 3D images, allowing for thorough and accurate analysis.

Time Efficiency: Virtual autopsies are often more time-efficient compared to traditional autopsies, streamlining the analysis process and providing quicker results.

Preservation of Body Integrity: As there are no physical incisions, the body remains intact throughout the virtual autopsy process, addressing concerns related to the preservation of the deceased individual's integrity.

Enhanced Educational Opportunities: Virtual autopsies offer valuable educational opportunities for medical professionals, students, and researchers, enabling in-depth exploration of anatomical structures without the need for cadaver dissection.

Academic Autopsy

Those autopsies which are done in the hospitals, medical colleges, research and medical agencies, for teaching purposes, is called academic autopsy. The academic autopsies are only done on those bodies which are donated in colleges for the teaching purpose.

Key Aspects of Academic Autopsy

Educational Focus: Academic autopsies serve primarily as educational tools, allowing medical students, researchers, and healthcare professionals to gain practical insights into human anatomy and pathology.

Research Opportunities: Bodies donated for academic autopsies contribute to ongoing medical research, fostering a better understanding of diseases, treatment modalities, and anatomical variations.

Ethical Considerations: The use of donated bodies in academic autopsies underscores the importance of ethical considerations, with donors often expressing their wish to contribute to medical education and research posthumously.

Collaboration with Medical Institutions: Academic autopsies often involve collaboration between medical colleges, hospitals, and research agencies, creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits both education and scientific advancement.

Way Forward

the exploration of five autopsy types reveals a diverse landscape within post-mortem examinations. Medicolegal autopsy addresses forensic necessities, clinical/pathological autopsy enhances medical knowledge voluntarily, and psychological autopsy probes the complexities of human behavior, especially in suicide cases. Virtual autopsy, utilizing advanced technology, offers non-invasive analyses with high precision. Academic autopsy fosters a synergy between education, research, and ethics. These autopsy types collectively showcase the evolving facets of scientific inquiry into mortality, reflecting a dynamic pursuit of knowledge in diverse realms, from forensics to cutting-edge technology and educational advancement.


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  • "The Forensic Casebook: The Science of Crime Scene Investigation" by Ngaire E. Genge

  • "Forensic Science: A Very Short Introduction" by Jim Fraser

  • "Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation" by Ross M. Gardner