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An autopsy is done after death to determine the cause of death when it is in question. If a doctor is not sure what caused the death, or the death was unattended, the body will be turned over to the medical examiner who holds jurisdiction over the area.
This is a medical procedure where the body is examined. Both the outside and inside of the body will be explored. Samples will be taken for testing and microscopic examination.
There are laws governing autopsies and when they are done. The family will often have no control over whether the procedure is carried out. In most cases, the families wishes will be considered but if the law requires that it be done it will be.
If an autopsy is called for, this needs to be taken into considersation when planning the funeral. This may delay the funeral for a day to several days. The medical examiner's office should be able to tell you when the body will be released.
In some cases, families wish to have autopsies performed by an independent professional. There are places that provide these services.
A competent funeral home can prepare the body for viewing after an autopsy. This should be discussed with the funeral home before making a final choice of a funeral provider.