The Autopsy Doctor

Autopsies that require an independent and comprehensive report.

FAQ

Who performs the private autopsy at Final Diagnosis Inc.? 

A private autopsy at Final Diagnosis, Inc. is performed ONLY by a qualified autopsy physician – an anatomic/clinical/forensic pathologist who is a board-certified physician specializing in the study of diseases.  There may be instances where Dr. Schultz himself is unable to perform the autopsy while away for meetings/etc., but in these instances, equally skilled and certified Florida licensed forensic pathologists, some with additional training and board certification in neuropathology for instance, may be enlisted. In some areas of the United States there are some  autopsy services which are often run by non-physicians, with autopsy dissections sometimes provided and performed almost exclusively by non-physician lay assistants, hopefully under the direct supervision by a qualified pathologist, but there have been examples where this has been questioned.  Be careful and ask many questions before getting a private autopsy from any autopsy provider you choose.  The core ingredient stakeholders need is  an enthusiastic, qualified forensic pathologist taking the case for all of the right reasons and recognizing the value of strong objective documentation.  

Why should I consider requesting a private autopsy? 

A private autopsy may be recommended for numerous reasons. The primary purpose is to put to rest any questions a family or perhaps their doctors or attorneys may have regarding the details  of death.  An autopsy often may discloses information about inheritable diseases that assists surviving family members with their own healthcare. If medical malpractice or medical neglect is suspected, an autopsy can document the presence or absence.  We suggest you consult at no charge, directly with Dr. Schultz or his administrative staff who can help you decide if an autopsy is appropriate. 

What is the difference between a private commissioned autopsy vs the Medical Examiner or Coroners autopsy

An autopsy is in general performed by a Medical Examiner of Coroner under statutory authority to elucidate cause and manner of death.  Typically these are evident violent deaths (gunshot, stab, electrocution, burn, poisoning, fall, drowning, starvation, suffocation, strangulation, etc.), as well as police custody deaths, and in sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID). Interestingly the most common autopsies performed by many Medical Examiners and coroners are actually the unknown natural deaths.  An autopsy may also be appropriate when the death clearly appears to be from natural or traumatic causes and is not autopsied by the medical examiner or coroner.  This is simply because  people may die with a variety of potentially fatal conditions.   The key is picking the right one(s) and really looking.   Sometimes an autopsy is repeated (a second autopsy) in order to corroborate or perhaps identify details that may have been missed on the first autopsy attempt.  These can be challenging but best handled via close cooperation with the initial pathologist,  for what they appreciate on first opportunity prior to dissection will not necessarily be evident to the second autopsy examiner.  

What will I receive when the autopsy is completed? 

The legal next of kin will receive the final autopsy report which includes a detailed examination and description of all organ systems and the presence or absence of relevant findings. The final report will be provided usually within weeks to months depending on medical records/other necessary adjunct data such as medical record  copies, but initial verbal findings are available within a few hours to days after the exam.

Who can request an autopsy? 

Any family member or close friend of the deceased may ask for an autopsy, but the autopsy must be properly authorized by next of kin or a legally designated party. Some autopsies are required by law and fall under the jurisdiction of a medical examiner or coroner which has authority over cases of sudden, unexpected and/or traumatic death but guidelines vary by jurisdiction and circumstances.  The heirarchy is in the following order:  health care surrogate or power of attorney, then spouse, adult child, parent, sibling, etc. It is not necessary that all children/siblings, for instance agree on the procedure, but for the procedure to proceed, at least one authorizing party must sign authorization. 

When should an autopsy be performed? 

The autopsy should be performed as soon as possible after death to prevent changes from interfering with the examination results. It is better to perform an autopsy prior to embalming, but it can still be performed on an embalmed body or after a delay but the results of some specialized tests may be affected.

Does an autopsy interfere with a funeral viewing?

The autopsy should not affect the process of a viewing.   That said, depending on the postmortem interval and condition when  arriving to Final Diagnosis, Inc. Working with the funeral director, Dr. Schultz can make sure an autopsy does not interfere with funeral arrangements or a viewing. Every effort is made to complete an investigation rapidly and efficiently so that the family can proceed with final arrangements. Most cases only take a few hours and are released the same day the body is received.

How is transportation of the body handled? 

We will help coordinate transport services to and from our facility for same day service, usually completing the process in two hours for returning to the locale for final disposition (funeral services, embalming, cremation, etc.)

What are The Autopsy Doctor’s qualifications? 

Dr. Daniel Schultz is a board-certified forensic, clinical and anatomic pathologist and has personally performed roughly  6,000 autopsies. He conducts and oversees everything from start to finish, even when other high quality forensic pathologists of similar board certification and experience fill in for him on some occasions. He has experience in hospitals, medical examiner’s and coroner’s offices, academic centers, tissue banks and funeral homes. He also provides testimony for civil and criminal courts requiring medical legal forensic expertise. Here’s a link for additional information on Dr. Dan Schultz.

What if I have legal questions and need the doctor to testify?  

You should consult with an appropriate attorney; however, Dr. Schultz is available for consultations, testimony, and depositions should the need arise (separate billing will apply). Law Firms link.

How much does an autopsy cost? 

Autopsy prices are variable depending on circumstances and details of distance, scope, etc.  Additional fees for transport to and from the laboratory would also apply and those vary with distance as well.   Requirement for Dr. Schultz to travel to the decedent at a funeral home, for instance, would be more costly.   There are extra costs related to morbid obesity (requiring additional assistance to help in the autopsy procedure) and if the deceased is embalmed or decomposed.  Please call for a quote at 727-639-1897.  Some other private autopsy providers may charge more or less, but as a potential client, be sure to ask:

  1. Where will they will be performing the exam?
  2. Are they sure there is adequate lighting/equipment/help?
  3. Who precisely is performing the dissection? 
  4. Are they board certified in forensic pathology?   
  5. How many autopsies have they done?
  6. Have they ever worked in a medical examiner or coroner office?

The quality of the opinion and the interpretation by others is bolstered by solid documentation and previous experience with similar cases.   While hospital based anatomic pathologists can and do legally perform private autopsies, forensic pathologists by nature are exposed to the greatest breadth of autopsy issues that may arise.  Sometimes what we do not see is as important as what we do see.   Pertinent negatives mean a lot.  What is remarkable is that a CT or “CAT” scan has a cost similar to a complete private autopsy examination, yet the volume and breadth of tissue visualization and direct sampling capabilities are unmatched when compared with the private autopsy.   Radiology is simply not the standard for diagnosis in a deceased individual.  The autopsy is that gold standard to achieve a Final Diagnosis. 

What payment options are accepted? 

For private autopsies, we require payment before the autopsy in scheduled in the form of credit card (3.5% surcharge), Paypal (2.9% surcharge), debit card, electronic transfer, money order, or cashier’s check, all made payable to Final Diagnosis, Inc., a Florida based S-Corporation owned by Dr. Schultz.