Leaving Your Autopsy to the Grandkids? Hear me out…

By Lee Bellinger / November 12, 2013

Saving Your Grandkids’ Lives
Even After You Are “Dearly Departed”

By Lee Bellinger

I am going to suggest a “present” that you would never want to wrap (or even talk about) – especially around Christmas. A present where you won’t have the satisfaction of seeing the end result, either.
Feet Tagged (I Love You Kids)
But it would be a profound gift, and a selfless one to boot – especially for your precious grandchildren or great grandchildren.
They say that “You can’t take it with you.” But you can do something unusual yet thoughtful to leave something important behind that will benefit the health of your children, grandchildren, and beyond.
Now we enter what can be a rather sensitive issue.
I’m not talking about being an organ donor or leaving your body to science. It’s even more personal and potentially more valuable than those ideas. What it boils down to is arranging for a detailed medical autopsy of your body so that physicians can map your genetic weaknesses.
Chances are, you’ve made plans for dispersing your wealth and personal possessions to your loved ones after you’re gone. But few people stop to think about one irreplaceable asset that goes to the grave with them: family health knowledge that could be extracted.

Safeguard Your Family’s Health
Even When You’re Gone

Information learned through your autopsy can give your children a chance to better understand what steps they can take to counter the health conditions with which they’re most likely to struggle, so that they can live longer, richer, healthier lives.
Giving a doctor a chance to do a thorough examination of your body can provide your family with a report that can help them better understand their own health risks – and then take preventative actions.
An autopsy can reveal increased risks for Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancers, and hereditary conditions like Huntington’s disease.
In each case, this knowledge can help your loved ones take proactive steps to protect their health and safeguard their quality of life. For example, if your sons, daughters, or grandchildren know that they are at higher risk for certain types of cancers, they can get screening tests and avoid behaviors that contribute to those cancers.
By choosing to have an autopsy, you provide your family a clearer path to good health and long life that they might not otherwise have.

First Things First

If, after some consideration, you decide that you would like an autopsy performed when you die, the first thing to do is talk to your closest relatives about your decision.
Make sure your spouse and children understand your decision. Knowing what you wish, and your reasons behind it, can remove some of the pain and uncertainty of making those decisions while grieving your loss.
During this discussion, you can also decide where you want the autopsy to be preformed. Hospitals and medical schools are the two most common options. Often medical schools and teaching hospitals often will do an autopsy for free. Private pathologists and traditional hospitals usually charge between $2,000 and $3,500 for the service.

Mapping Your Genetic Weaknesses
Can Help Your Family’s Next Generation

In some states, if the cause of death is uncertain, the medical examiner may require an autopsy to be performed. But, in many states, the decision will rest with your family. That means unless you make written, legally binding arrangements ensuring your decision is carried out, your next of kin could change their minds about the procedure.
In matters concerning health care and the end of life, you should fill out an Advanced Health Care Directive or Health Care Power of Attorney in accordance with the specific requirements of your state. That is the best way to ensure that your wishes regarding your remains are carried out.
The results of your autopsy are usually released automatically to your doctor. They will not necessarily be released to your family members or their doctors unless you’ve made those arrangements in advance.
It might be easiest to designate one person to request a copy of the report, and then give them the responsibility of making sure each of your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or whomever you choose receives a copy.

Allaying Concerns
Should Be on Your Radar Screen

The loss of a loved one is a particularly difficult time. And, you don’t want to add to the pain of your family’s grief by making them uncomfortable.
Medical Radar
You can soothe their concerns in advance by discussing the benefits of procedure. The pathologists who perform autopsies understand the sensitive nature of their work and complete their task with dignity and respect.
You can also take into consideration any concerns your loved ones have about the handling of your body. Relay any specific wishes regarding the autopsy procedure in the legal documents you prepare beforehand.
Finally, your family may be concerned that your wish for an autopsy will interfere with funeral preparations. That almost never happens. The doctors involved will work hard to make sure everything is complete before the funeral. And, having an autopsy will not prevent an open-casket service if that is your wish.

These Arrangements
Need to Be Smoothed Out in Advance

Electing to have an autopsy performed upon your death is a difficult and delicate decision.
“This has the potential to upset your family, but it also has the potential to benefit them greatly.”
They can share the knowledge they gain with their doctors. This can help inform plans for preventative medicine and treatment programs for specific conditions that do develop. It can also help your loved ones make better decisions about the type and level of health insurance they need. Those decisions can protect their financial futures as well as their health.
I recommend that you at least consider the option and discuss it with your loved ones. It may be that your final gift to your children and grandchildren is the gift of better health and greater peace of mind. Who knows, some of the elders in your family might well be game to this approach.
If you implement this idea, you will have a legacy far better than money to be proud of – because you can continue to protect the health of your grandkids when they reach the later years of their life and we are all long gone.
Just a thought to pass throughout your family.