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Autopsy Division

The Autopsy Service performs autopsies - the examination of a body after death - to provide greater medical knowledge about the cause of death. All autopsies performed at Brigham and Women's Hospital are conducted with the utmost respect and professionalism. An autopsy will only be performed with the written consent of the legal next of kin.

Who Can Have an Autopsy Performed at Brigham and Women's Hospital?

  • Any patient who passes away at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute can have an autopsy at no cost.
  • Any patient cared for at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who passes away elsewhere (e.g. at home, another hospital, or a nursing home) can have an autopsy at no cost. The family or next-of-kin is responsible for transportation costs determined by a funeral home of their choosing.
  • Some local hospitals are contracted with Brigham and Women's Hospital to provide autopsy services. If a patient passes away at one of these hospitals and you would like an autopsy, then that hospital can make arrangements for the autopsy directly with Brigham and Women's Hospital. Any costs are determined by the hospital where the patient passed away. If the hospital does not want to coordinate the autopsy, but you are still interested in getting one, see the Private autopsies option below.
  • Private autopsies can be requested if a person has not been cared for at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. These are accepted on a case-by-case basis. If accepted, the family or next-of-kin is responsible for the cost of the autopsy and transportation costs determined by the funeral home of their choosing.
  • The Rapid Autopsy Program is for research-based autopsies and are coordinated through the doctor caring for the patient, the research team, and the autopsy service. The short time-interval or "rapid" portion of these autopsies provide an opportunity for furthering research on particular diseases. A full autopsy evaluation can still be performed after research samples have been obtained. Please speak with your doctor if you are interested.

Obtaining Autopsy Reports

Final autopsy reports may take up to 60 days after the autopsy to be completed.

For All Brigham and Women's, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute patients, finalized autopsy reports must be obtained through Mass General Brigham Release of Information Unit (Medical Records). The Pathology Department CANNOT release autopsy reports.

  • If your loved one passed away at one of our contracted hospitals, the finalized report can be obtained through that hospital's Medical Records Department and not Mass General Brigham Release of Information Unit.
  • For PRIVATE Autopsy Reports ONLY - please contact the Morgue and Autopsy Services directly (contact info is below)

Paperwork required for Mass General Brigham Release of Information Unit (medical records)

***Complete the Authorization for Release of Protected or Privileged Health Information form as soon as possible, even before the autopsy report is finalized. The sooner this form is completed, the faster the autopsy report can be obtained once the report is finalized ***

1.Brigham and Women's Hospital Authorization for Release of Protected or Privileged Health Information form can be found here.

Required Information:

  1. Part A:
    Patient Name
    Date of Birth
    Address
  2. Part B: Send Records to, and indicate how you would like to have it sent
  3. Part C: Information to be Release. Specify "Other," and on the line, write "Autopsy Reports"
  4. Part E:
    Signature of Legal Representative
    Date
    Print Name
    Relationship of Representative to Patient

Please see here for an example of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Authorization Form with required fields highlighted. If it is not highlighted, it does not need to be filled out.

2. Authorization from the Executor, Executrix, Administrator of the Estate or Personal Representative, along with documentation indicating legal authority. This paperwork is required by Massachusetts State Law. If there is no legal documentation, families and/or next-of-kin are required to go to Probate Court to obtain the proper documentation.

These two documents can be mailed or faxed to the following address:

Mass General Brigham Release of Information
121 Inner Belt Road, Room 240
Somerville, MA 02143-4453

Phone: (617) 726-2361
Fax: (617) 726-3661

Understanding the Autopsy Report

We understand that reading the finalized autopsy report can be difficult and confusing at times. If you have any questions regarding the autopsy findings, please contact the physician who you signed the consent form with or one of the physicians that was caring for the patient.

Contact Us

For questions and inquiries relating to Morgue and Autopsy services, please call 617-732-5500, extension 33641

  • Press 1 if you are a funeral home calling about the transport of a patient
  • Press 2 to be transferred to Medical Records to request a completed autopsy report
  • Press 3 for the status of an autopsy report or for requesting a private autopsy
  • Press 4 for questions for the perinatal service
  • Press 0 for any other inquiries

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If my loved one passed away at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, which Authorization for Release of Protected or Privileged Health Information form should I use to request the final autopsy reports.
A: The Authorization for Release of Protected or Privileged Health Information for Brigham and Women's Hospital or Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital can be used. As an affiliation to Brigham and Women's Hospital, Faulkner shares the same Medical Records Department as Brigham and Women's Hospital, and therefore either authorization form can be completed.

Q: How do I know if my Authorization for Release of Protected or Privileged Health Information paperwork has been verified?
A: If the authorization form and legal documentations are properly filled out, the Mass General Brigham Release of Information Unit will automatically send you the finalized autopsy reports when they are completed. If there are any discrepancies, the Release of Information Unit will send a detailed letter if a request cannot be completed.

Q: How do I know if an autopsy report is completed?
A: Autopsies can take up to 60 days to be completed. Roughly 60 days after the autopsy is performed, you can call the autopsy service and we can confirm if an autopsy report has been finalized.

Q: I am the healthcare proxy for the decedent, but I am not their legal next-of-kin, nor on any legal documentation. Can I obtain the autopsy report?
A: We understand there are times when the person consenting for the autopsy is not on legal documentation, and therefore obtaining the finalized report may be difficult. If there is any difficulty obtaining the finalized report, please contact Mass General Brigham Release of Information Unit Phone at (617) 726-2361.

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