The Autopsy Doctor
Dr. Daniel “Dan” Schultz is founder, President, and Chief Pathologist for Final Diagnosis, Inc., and has personally performed over 6000 autopsies. Dr. Schultz is a board certified anatomic, clinical and forensic pathologist and is licensed to practice medicine in Florida (home), California, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio. Final Diagnosis, Inc. is a rare private autopsy facility in the United States. Dan is a former forensic pathologist and Medical Examiner/Coroner in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. He received his Doctor of Medicine in 1990 from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, trained in forensic pathology in Hillsborough County, Florida over two decades ago and has written and spoken on the topics of death investigation for his entire career. Dan has been featured in various television documentaries and most notably in “Alcatraz: Search for the Truth” which was produced by The History Channel (and can be found on YouTube if not currently broadcast). There is always an opportunity to teach and hopefully motivate young individuals to consider the world of forensic pathology as a career. Forensic pathologists are indeed the family doctor when you need us most. This perspective is something many people may not appreciate until it happens to them. No one is really ever fully prepared for the loss of a loved one.
Dr. Schutz is an outspoken advocate of the value of the autopsy and getting to “The Truth through Final Diagnosis” thus establishing Final Diagnosis, Inc and his freestanding lab in Tampa, Florida. This lab helps address the logistical challenges of access to a facility optimized for autopsies, although Dr. Schultz is also sometimes available to travel for autopsy exams. Dr. Schultz’s motivations for a private autopsy service is quite simply to answer the question:
“What really happened?”
It is not uncommon to find surprise diseases at autopsy. In fact, it is safe to say that if one does not find anything “new” one probably did not look very hard. Dr. Schultz looks. He is devoted as a scientist to getting the most information, and getting it right for every case. He takes personal pride in his work and will let you know if obtaining an autopsy is going to provide valuable information. Based on the story and the questions raised, he may tell a family an autopsy is not necessary. An autopsy is by no means inexpensive, but in comparison to other diagnostic methods (CT scan, MRI, etc.) it is more sensitive and often can find things that have been inaccurately diagnosed.
The autopsy is the Gold Standard for diagnosis – the best and Final Diagnosis. Many times the autopsy will uncover a surprise of some sort, and while we may have some idea what a person died “with”, that is not necessarily what they died “from”. 30 to 50% of death certificates in the United States are in fact labeled with incorrect causes. Many say meaningless things like “cardiac arrest”, or “respiratory arrest”, which say nothing about the true underlying disease or perhaps occult traumatic cause. The practice of death certification is generally minimally taught in medical schools, and in all fairness, the level of certainty asked for is only “most probable”. So without the autopsy, often times the choice of which condition to choose among the many, is essentially a best guess. The reality is that death certificates are a statistical document, stating that a certain person died on a certain date; beyond that, they are inaccurate sources of disease prevalence. Knowing that a previously undetected cancer is present might be very important information to know. This might enable considerations for lifestyle modification and disease surveillance for remaining family. For Final Diagnosis, initial no-cost counseling happens in the very beginning, well before an engagement to undertake an autopsy. It is ethically important to only perform diagnostic tests such as an autopsy when there is a reasonable perceived value of that exercise as the cost, while necessary, is not trivial. But the scope of what might be gleaned, both positive and negative for considered scenarios, saves us all in the end from the harms of the objective evidentiary speculation. The autopsy IS a diagnostic gold standard.
Click here for information on Dr. Schultz’s professional certifications, experience, education and memberships.