The Autopsy Service provides feedback to physicians and families regarding the disease processes associated with a patient's death. The Service performs autopsies on deceased patients within the Duke Health System whose families grant permission for an autopsy.

A major outcome of each autopsy is the accurate transmission of this information to the appropriate clinical staff in a timely manner.

The Autopsy Service also provides training for pathology residents and pathologists' assistant students in the principles and practice of anatomic pathology through the performance of autopsies.

Additional useful information concerning autopsies can be found on the website of the College of American Pathologists.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it necessary for patients to be admitted to Duke Hospital, Duke Regional Hospital, or Duke Raleigh Hospital before they die?
    No. We find that many families prefer to remain in familiar surroundings during this difficult time. If a patient dies outside of the hospital, the next-of-kin may still request an autopsy by contacting the Duke Decedent Care Office at 919-681-6264. The Duke Decedent Care Service is staffed year-round, 24 hours per day.
  • Can the family still have a traditional open casket funeral viewing if an autopsy is done?
    Yes. A small suture line may be slightly visible in men and women who have receding hairlines or who are bald. The suture line is usually not visible if the funeral home uses a soft pillow.
  • Can the autopsy cause a delay in funeral or cremation arrangements?
    Usually not, but there may be circumstances beyond our control. We may delay an autopsy until the next day depending on the time of death. We usually do not do autopsies on major (national) holidays. Weather is always a possible complicating factor. The autopsy procedure is generally completed in two to three hours. Once the autopsy is completed, the body is transported to the Duke Decedent Care office and is then available for release to the family's chosen funeral home or crematorium.
  • Is there a charge for autopsy?
    There is no charge for a partial or full autopsy for anyone who has been an active patient within the Duke Health System. Funeral and cremation arrangements should be made well in advance of death, if possible. This will help limit family stress at this very difficult time.
  • Who can give autopsy consent?
    The immediate family should be in agreement regarding autopsy, but the legal next-of-kin is the individual responsible for authorizing the procedure at the time of death. The legal next of kin, in order of priority, is: spouse, adult child, either parent, adult brother or sister or guardian. At Duke, consent for autopsy can be obtained over the telephone. An autopsy at Duke cannot be done without confirmation of consent by the next-of-kin after death.
  • Does the family get the autopsy results?
    Yes, if they desire to receive the report.

Additional Useful Information

Additional useful information concerning autopsies can be found on the website of the College of American Pathologists.

Obtain a Copy

To obtain a copy of a Duke Autopsy report, please visit Duke Medical Records.

Check on the Status

To check on the status of an Autopsy report please call:

Ms. Christy Hinton