Jump to content

Menu

If an old person dies at home


Recommended Posts

It depends on the situation.  Here, if the person is elderly and has a significant medical history, the medical examiner usually doesn’t send it for an autopsy, unless there is something unusual or suspicious.  Or if the family really wants one.

There are certain circumstances here where autopsies are done over the family’s objections, but those are rare legal cases. (I work very part time for our coroner, mostly finding next of kin and such.)

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

It depends on the situation.  Here, if the person is elderly and has a significant medical history, the medical examiner usually doesn’t send it for an autopsy, unless there is something unusual or suspicious.  Or if the family really wants one.

There are certain circumstances here where autopsies are done over the family’s objections, but those are rare legal cases. (I work very part time for our coroner, mostly finding next of kin and such.)

So my friend ought to go to her doctor to establish a medical history? She doesn’t seem to have problems, though she had a small stroke a few years ago.

 If there is not much wrong with her and it’s in her medical file, would that make it lean towards autopsy? 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here, they will look at the circumstances.  My grandma died in her bed at 87.  Her daughter found her and reported it the next morning.  There was no indication of foul play.  No autopsy.  I had heard that all deaths outside the hospital / hospice system required an autopsy, but not really.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, crazyforlatin said:

So my friend ought to go to her doctor to establish a medical history? She doesn’t seem to have problems, though she had a small stroke a few years ago.

 If there is not much wrong with her and it’s in her medical file, would that make it lean towards autopsy? 

I think the likelihood of an autopsy increases if the deceased is not in a demographic where natural deaths are common.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, crazyforlatin said:

So my friend ought to go to her doctor to establish a medical history? She doesn’t seem to have problems, though she had a small stroke a few years ago.

 If there is not much wrong with her and it’s in her medical file, would that make it lean towards autopsy? 

So I can only answer for here and my local legalities.  If she’s quite elderly they rarely go for an autopsy,  usually the primary doctor is willing to sign the death certificate.  If she has family/next of kin that will object to an autopsy, we wouldn’t send her unless it was absolutely necessary(such as she was murdered or other suspicious circumstances).  I suspect that’s true most places.

It would be a good idea to establish care with a primary doctor. She could have them put religious reasons for no autopsy in her file; they may or may not be contacted, but documentation never hurts.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Autopsies are usually only done in REALLY unusual circumstances, or when the family requests it. This is actually a growing problem, because doctors and examiners are getting less practice, but regardless, your friend does not really need to worry about it. If your friend really is concerned she may wish to speak to a lawyer about writing up a formal document to be kept with her at all times, or even just getting a medical ID tag that says "NO AUTOPSY".

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, SKL said:

Here, they will look at the circumstances.  My grandma died in her bed at 87.  Her daughter found her and reported it the next morning.  There was no indication of foul play.  No autopsy.  I had heard that all deaths outside the hospital / hospice system required an autopsy, but not really.

All deaths here outside of the hospital/hospice require that the coroner/medical examiner investigator show up and “investigate”, but not all go for autopsy.  It’s at the coroner’s discretion if an autopsy is necessary or not.

In hospital they have to call the ME if the deceased was in the ER/in the hospital less than 24 hours, suspicious circumstances, or if the patient had a known fall in the last 14 days.  Our decedents are transported an hour away to the hospital pathology team that the county has a contract with.  It’s a significant cost, and autopsies are paid for by the county, so they have a vested interest in not autopsying everyone.

Edited by Mrs Tiggywinkle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

So I can only answer for here and my local legalities.  If she’s quite elderly they rarely go for an autopsy,  usually the primary doctor is willing to sign the death certificate.  If she has family/next of kin that will object to an autopsy, we wouldn’t send her unless it was absolutely necessary(such as she was murdered or other suspicious circumstances).  I suspect that’s true most places.

It would be a good idea to establish care with a primary doctor. She could have them put religious reasons for no autopsy in her file; they may or may not be contacted, but documentation never hurts.

Actually due to Covid she didn’t visit the doctor since the last flu shot in Fall 2019, so going to the doctor this summer and having this conversation is a good idea, just letting him know what she prefers.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Autopsies are usually only done in REALLY unusual circumstances, or when the family requests it. This is actually a growing problem, because doctors and examiners are getting less practice, but regardless, your friend does not really need to worry about it. If your friend really is concerned she may wish to speak to a lawyer about writing up a formal document to be kept with her at all times, or even just getting a medical ID tag that says "NO AUTOPSY".

I just looked on Amazon for a tag and will order and customize it for her. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, crazyforlatin said:

Actually due to Covid she didn’t visit the doctor since the last flu shot in Fall 2019, so going to the doctor this summer and having this conversation is a good idea, just letting him know what she prefers.

I just texted the coroner I work for and asked what the protocol here would be. He said:

“Most counties do what we do. We try to comply with family wishes whenever possible. If there is an actual requirement for one by law, then we get a court order. 

Unless there is a compelling reason to force a family nobody will do that.  So it really depends on the circumstances of death.”


He recommended she make very sure that her family/next of kin know her wishes. 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

I just texted the coroner I work for and asked what the protocol here would be. He said:

“Most counties do what we do. We try to comply with family wishes whenever possible. If there is an actual requirement for one by law, then we get a court order. 

Unless there is a compelling reason to force a family nobody will do that.  So it really depends on the circumstances of death.”


He recommended she make very sure that her family/next of kin know her wishes. 

We’re in California, but I’m sure protocol for autopsy for an elderly person would be similar. Thanks for asking!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, Melissa in Australia said:

When my grandmother89 died at home last year she had an autopsy. But that didn't involve being cut at all. Her body was scanned. The blood clot was visable in the scan. Cause of death was stroke. 

So not all autopsys involve being cut opened 

I had no idea a scanning autopsy exists. Is that done in a morgue? 
 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, crazyforlatin said:

I had no idea a scanning autopsy exists. Is that done in a morgue? 
 

 

I think her body was transferred to the hospital for the scan then back to the morgue. But I don't really know. I know I spoke to her GP and told him she had passed.  The GP contacted the coroner directly and gave medical history. 

The funeral date was up in the air for a few days as the body could only be released after cause of death found and death certificate made. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My 96 year old grandmother died at home.  She lived by herself and didn't have any specific illnesses.  Since there was blood everywhere, and the emergency personnel who found her couldn't locate her purse, they did an autopsy to rule out foul play.  I'm not sure if a simple unattended death would have had the same result.

  • Thanks 1
  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

All of my grandparents died at home, none had autopsies.  Three were quite old with known health issues and the one that died younger had cancer and was released from the hospital to die at home.  
 

The instructions we had from the doctor once we knew they would die at home was to call the primary care doctor after death and then call the funeral home, not to call 911 or emergency services.  

Edited by Danae
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My father died alone at home and did not have an autopsy.  I actually would have liked one because I don't know how he died, but was told we'd have to pay for it ourselves and we decided it wasn't worth the expense since it wouldn't change anything.  He lived out of state and I could tell his health was declining but didn't know what was going on and was actually going to talk to him a few days after he died about coming down to visit to check on him.  

Edited by Kassia
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My father died in his mid-50's.  He was found by a cousin on the porch of the old house in which he was born.  He had stopped at the property on his lunch break to work in the garden and we think he laid down to take a nap and died from a heart attack.  There was no autopsy.  

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Has she spoken with her minister/religious leader?  If this is a religious practice I'd assume that the head of her local religious organization (church, etc ) would be expert on the ins and outs of this.   Can she leave instructions that her religious leader should be called first if/when she dies at home?

My religion (Judaism) also frowns on autopsies, especially routine autopsies.  Rabbis generally know very well how to deal with this issue and will help negotiate with medical/legal/military officials on the family's behalf if necessary.  

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it is assumed to be natural causes - no autopsy.

If the family objects due to religious reasons, they are usually respected.  There are some tests that can be run that do not involve cutting open the body.  Usually, they would only be considered if there were a reason, such as suspected foul play.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for every response. I read them all to her and she will be meeting with the doctor and letting him know if it's ok to have the family call him first. And I'll order a bracelet for her too. She feels so much better now and actually can start doing something that can make her wishes known.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, crazyforlatin said:

Thanks so much for every response. I read them all to her and she will be meeting with the doctor and letting him know if it's ok to have the family call him first. And I'll order a bracelet for her too. She feels so much better now and actually can start doing something that can make her wishes known.

If you don’t already know you might want to gently inquire if there’s a reason this has come up now.  Has she recently received a diagnosis?  Or has someone she knows died and been autopsied? Advance planning is good, but there might be something else she needs mental or emotional support for.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Danae said:

If you don’t already know you might want to gently inquire if there’s a reason this has come up now.  Has she recently received a diagnosis?  Or has someone she knows died and been autopsied? Advance planning is good, but there might be something else she needs mental or emotional support for.

She's 80 and her husband did pass away this year, though in a foreign country visiting relatives. So life becomes unpredictable when you think your spouse will outlive you. When her own mother died in the early 80s, the hospital insisted on an autopsy to see how she was able to survive for so many years with cancer. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...