Decedent Care Center - Autopsy Service

The Decedent Care Center (DCC) provides compassionate and professional support to families and hospital staff following the death of a patient. We sustain the clinical goal of patient-centered medicine for the benefit of families and hospital staff.

Core Activities

Family Visit
A Decedent Care Specialist (DCS) visits with family members in the deceased patient’s unit or by telephone to discuss postmortem care of the decedent. At a minimum, the DCS obtains patient information, family contact information, and funeral home preference. The DCS assists clinicians during a family discussion of the autopsy option, and may be present during a discussion of the organ/tissue donation option. The DCS ensures proper completion of the autopsy consent form, if an autopsy is planned. The DCS explains activities of the Johnson County Medical Examiner Department, if indicated.

Autopsy

An autopsy is a dignified and detailed surgical examination of the body after death. This clinical consultation provides detailed diagnostic information to the family and treating physicians. Autopsy findings usually validate most clinical diagnoses and commonly refine or clarify clinical data. Occasionally, an autopsy reveals important unexpected information about a patient’s disease or injury. Autopsy information is a vital component of education and continuous quality improvement.

Autopsies are performed without charge to family members of a deceased University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in-patient. An autopsy may be performed without charge on an established UI Hospitals and Clinics patient who has passed away at home or in a care facility. Some autopsies are performed at the request of a medical examiner. All autopsies at the UI Hospitals and Clinics are performed in the Decedent Care Center in a clean, respectful environment similar to a hospital operating room. A typical autopsy requires 3-6 hours and should not delay or restrict funeral arrangements.

An autopsy requires written consent from the decedent’s next of kin or the county medical examiner. All autopsies are performed by pathologists, physicians with specialized training in laboratory medicine. Some autopsies are performed by a forensic pathologist, a pathologist with additional training in medicolegal death investigation.

Organ/Tissue Donation
The Decedent Care Center provides space for procurement activities of the Iowa Donor Network and the Iowa Lions Eye Bank.

Release of Decedents to Funeral Homes
The Decedent Care Specialists coordinate the timely and respectful transfer of each deceased patient from the UI Decedent Care Center to the family’s funeral home of choice.

Education
The Decedent Care Center staff and pathologists are dedicated to enhancing knowledge of diseases and injuries for families, physicians, health care students, and medical examiners.