Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are necropsies performed on organ donors?"
My partner is receiving an organ from an organ donor. Do they do autopsies on these people to see what killed them?
When someone that is an organ donor dies, there is a service that comes in to determine what organs can be used from the body and if there is any reason that the organs in question cannot be transplanted. This involves not only determining why the person died, but also what other medical conditions they may have. If any of those medical conditions make the organ sub-optimal, then the organ is not transplanted. The donor's body is taken to an operating room where the organs are harvested. After the organs are transplanted, an autopsy is almost always performed. There are some organ transplantations in which less may be known about the cause of death prior to the transplantation. One example is heart transplantation. The heart can only be outside the body for several hours and thus, the transplant must happen often before the exact cause of death is known. Organ transplantation is a major medical event. Therefore it is imperative that your partner understand all the risks and benefits associated with accepting a donor's organ before agreeing to it. Thus, I would suggest that your partner schedule an appointment with his or her primary care physician. He or she can discuss these issues in detail. If your partner needs a new organ, then the benefits of receiving that organ almost certainly outweigh the risks. Good luck going forward with the transplantation.
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