10 Reasons For Post Mortem in Kenya


Introduction: Why Post-mortem are necessary

There are 2 broad categories of autopsies, forensic and clinical.

Forensic autopsies are  legally mandated i.e. are required by law. Clinical autopsies on the other hand, are conducted to answer questions of clinical nature.

In Kenya, forensic autopsies do not require consent of family members ( although their involvement and representation is desirable). Clinical autopsies require the next of kin of the deceased to consent to the medical examination.

Note: Click here to  read a more detailed article on autopsies in Kenya

Here are 5 top scenarios when  autopsies become necessary


Reasons for Forensic Autopsies:

1. Suspected Homicide:

When a death is suspected to be caused by another person, a forensic autopsy is performed to determine the cause and manner of death, collect evidence, and aid in criminal investigations.

2. Accidental Deaths:

In cases of accidents, such as vehicle crashes, industrial incidents, or falls, a forensic autopsy can help determine if there were contributing factors, such as intoxication or medical conditions. This is the most common reason why autopsies are conducted in Kenya, according to this author’s experience.

3. Suspicious Deaths:

When a death occurs under unclear circumstances, such as sudden deaths of apparently healthy individuals, a forensic autopsy can uncover hidden causes such as poisoning or underlying medical conditions. If a death occurs within 24 hours of admission to a hospital (and the cause of death is not obvious, like a known medical condition) a post-mortem is usually indicated.

4. Suicides:

Forensic autopsies are conducted to determine if a death was indeed a suicide, ruling out foul play, and collecting evidence that can help understand the reasons behind the act.

5. Identification of Unrecognized Bodies:

In cases where the identity of a deceased person is unknown or needs verification, forensic autopsies can provide crucial information through fingerprints, dental records, or DNA analysis. Some of the recent situations where autopsy has been used include mass casualty eg   Terrositt Attacks, Shachagwan fire disaster, Shakahola Massacre to name a few

6. Deaths from Medical Negligence

While quite unfortunate and  rare, deaths form medical negigelce are a special category of forensic autopsies. It allows the hosptial and/or clinician to be brought to account as well as bring closure to the family of the deceased.  These autopsies are very complicated and are not always conclusive.


Indications for Clinical Autopsies:

1. Medical Research and Education:

Clinical autopsies contribute to medical knowledge by helping to better understand disease progression, treatment outcomes, and complications, ultimately improving patient care.

2. Quality Assurance in Medical Care:

Clinical autopsies can uncover diagnostic errors, treatment inefficiencies, or medical complications, which can help improve the quality of healthcare and prevent similar mistakes in the future. In particular, maternal deaths are always taken extremely seriously and are always subjected to autopsy.

3. Inherited Diseases:

Autopsies can reveal underlying genetic conditions that might have contributed to a patient’s death, providing valuable information for family members and genetic counseling.

4. Hospital Mortality Reviews:

Clinical autopsies are performed to evaluate the causes of death in a hospital setting, which aids in monitoring and improving patient outcomes and safety.

In Kenya, maternal mortalities are taken extremely seroiusly and are always subjected (ideally) to post mortem examination to determine theexact casue of death. This helps in preventing future deaths.

5. Medical Education and Training:

Autopsies are an essential tool for training medical professionals, helping students and healthcare providers gain a better understanding of anatomy, disease pathology, and treatment effects.

Please note that while these indications are commonly associated with forensic and clinical autopsies, the decision to perform an autopsy depends on a variety of factors, including legal requirements, family consent, and the specific circumstances of the case.


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