Rapid Autopsy

Frequently Asked Questions

Will performing an autopsy prevent a viewing at the funeral? +

No. A complete autopsy procedure does not touch the face, arms, or legs and will not prevent a viewing from taking place.

How rapid does a Rapid Autopsy have to be? +

The goal is to perform the tissue collection within six hours of death; however, longer intervals do not necessarily mean that useful information cannot be learned from the samples. Rapid autopsy samples would usually not be taken at an after-death interval of more than 12 hours. It is important, however, that family members not feel rushed in their time with their loved ones after death. At Legacy Gift, we always want to honor the wishes of our brave and generous families and will work within the times that they need.

Do the family have to pay any fees for a Rapid Research autopsy? +

No. Costs to perform the case and for transport to the hospital are paid. Families will be responsible for the costs of funeral arrangements after the case is completed.

Who performs the Rapid autopsy? +

The autopsy is performed by a physician trained in the subspecialty of Pathology with experience in performing autopsies in the state-of-the-art postmortem facility within the Johns Hopkins Hospital. There are also assisting staff both as a part of Legacy Gift and from the participating research laboratories.

Why are there two consents to sign? +

The Rapid Autopsy study consent is signed by the patient themselves if they are capable, and can otherwise be signed by a next of kin prior to death. It allows for sample collection and use of personalized medical information by the researchers. The consent to perform the autopsy itself by law can only be signed after the patient passes away by the closest next-of-kin and not by the patients themselves.

What is the difference between the Rapid Autopsy Study consent and the Autopsy consent? +

The Study Consent must be signed before the patient passes, by the patient or if they are unable, the next of kin. It gives permission for things like genetic testing on the samples that will be taken, tissue banking, and other guidelines. An Autopsy Consent is signed by the legal next of kin to authorize the autopsy procedure itself after the patient passes.

I am from outside of the state of Maryland. Can I participate in the Legacy Gift program? +

Potentially, yes. Legacy Gift is currently serving only patients who can be transported to Baltimore within a feasible number of hours for performance of the case at Hopkins and this has included patients in Washington DC and Virginia. We are working to create a contact list for programs in other regions (see Related Links) and possibly involve more centers and private pathologists in the future.

I or my family member have a terminal cancer diagnosis. When is a good time to think about participation in the Rapid Autopsy program? +

It is best to think about participation in the Rapid Autopsy program before the patient is actively dying so that communication can be set up, questions can be answered, and arrangements can be made for transportation if needed. Though this is ideal, cases have also been performed for patients in the hospital whose families had not considered participation in the program until late in the disease course.