The post-mortem report

The pathologist who undertook the post-mortem will write a post-mortem report. The next of kin will be informed of the result and a copy of the report can be sent to the GP of the person who died. A copy is also available to the next of kin on request. In criminal cases, there may be some restrictions on the information provided to the family. If you do request a copy, please bear in mind that it is written in medical terms and you may find the details distressing.

Not all pathology reports look the same. In most cases, a pathology report will start with general information, such as the person’s medical history and the circumstances of their death. This is usually followed by a description of the outside of the body and the internal organs. This section of the report is called the ‘gross’ or ‘macroscopic’ description and includes information about the size, weight and appearance of the organs. If any tissue was retained for examination under the microscope, there will be a description that points out all the features seen. Tissue may be sent for microbiological examination to determine if an infection is present. There may be information about other tests carried out on body fluids, such as toxicology tests. Finally, there is a summary of the main points, sometimes in a list, usually with a cause of death.

All the information in the pathology report is considered together and one piece of information should not be considered in isolation.