Pathology Services (Adult)

Pathologists undertake autopsies on adults to identify cause of death, the extent of disease and/or the efficacy of any treatment the deceased may have received. A post mortem examination can either be ordered by the Coroner when death is sudden, unexpected or suspicious, in these circumstances consent is neither sought nor required. A consented post mortem examination is requested by the treating doctor to better understand the extent of disease or efficacy of treatment, the next of kin have the choice to either agree or refuse consent.

Care provided after death:

  • Establish the cause of death if possible
  • Document the nature of any disease present, its extent and whether it contributed towards death
  • Identify any diagnostic issues which may influence future patient treatment and care
  • Provide professional guidance and training around autopsy examination and the role of the autopsy in the clinical investigation of death
  • Ensure that the post mortem results are provided to the clinicians and thus the family in a timely and appropriate manner
  • Provide guidance in relation to the consent process and the documentation required
  • Act as a resource to HSC staff in relation to the role of the Coroner, PSNI and the post mortem examination in cases of sudden and unexpected death.

Works alongside:

  • Other members of medical, scientific and administrative teams including organ banks
  • Mortuary staff
  • The Coroners Service for Northern Ireland
  • PSNI
  • The Department of Justice, (NI Regional Forensic Mortuary Service)
  • Members of the legal profession
  • DHSSPS and Public Health Agency – consent forms, PM info for family and clinicians, cot death leaflets etc
  • Cremation office (Belfast City Hall registration for stillbirths and neonatal deaths).
  • Roselawn Crematorium and staff

The Standard of Bereavement Care is enhanced when:

  • Up to date professional training re consent, HTA legislation, coroner regulations is facilitated
  • Documentation required to allow legal completion of a PM examination and disposal of any retained tissues is completed accurately by ward based staff
  • Healthcare professionals who seek consent have accessed training and attended an autopsy examination for professional development, to ensure that the information they provide about the purpose and methodology of the examination is current and accurate

Standards and Guidelines: