A post-mortem examination, also known as an autopsy, is the examination of a body after death. The aim of a post-mortem is to determine the cause of death.

Post-mortems are carried out by pathologists (doctors who specialise in understanding the nature and causes of disease).

The Royal College of Pathologists and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) set the standards pathologists work to.

Post-mortems provide useful information about how, when and why someone died, and they enable pathologists to obtainabetter understanding of how diseases spread.

Learning more about illnesses and medical conditions benefits patients too,because it means they'll receive more effective treatment in the future.

If your child, partner or relative has died and a post-mortem is to be carried out, hospital bereavement officers can offer you support and advice. They also act as the main point of contact between you and the staff carrying out the post-mortem.

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Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 16 Jan 2017