ATLANTA, GA – Inspired by the Food & Drug Administration’s recent approval of postmortem chemotherapy, forensic pathologist Thomas Read recently decided to get a head start by performing the world’s first premortem autopsy.
“Autopsies can be a very time-consuming process, and sometimes we can get impatient waiting for someone to die before we can even start our work,” admitted Read, a leading proponent of the premortem autopsy, who first discussed the topic at last year’s College of American Pathologists’ meeting. “If we can get a head start, while the patient is alive, that can really save us some valuable time.”
An autopsy – also known as a postmortem exam, necropsy, or autopsia cadaverum – is the thorough physical examination of a deceased body by surgical dissection in order to determine the cause of death. The procedure is performed by pathologists but typically after a patient passes away.
About one week ago, Read consented his first patient for premortem autopsy. Gomerblog was present for the interaction.
“Good morning,” Read said to his young healthy patient. “Do you mind if I cut you up, muck around a bit, and figure out what will inevitably kill you?” He went over the procedure in some detail. “One of the complications of premortem autopsy is death since I will be chopping you up into little bits,” he added. Surprisingly, after only a few moments of contemplation, the patient agreed as long as he received a one-time dose of Dilaudid beforehand.
Read performed the premortem autopsy the next day. After several days of careful examination, Read was excited to find that his patient was free of any disease or cause of death. Read was excited to deliver the good news.
“Unfortunately,” a very sad Read told Gomerblog, “I was sad to find out that the patient had passed away before I could tell him the results. The cause of death? Death by autopsy. I still can’t believe it.”