Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “autopsy”

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research Autopsy Pathology Rotation

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research Autopsy Pathology Rotation (http://home.ccr.cancer.gov/LOP/intranet/ResidentsManual/sect4autopat.asp)
UPDATE: Checked on 6/29/17, this resource was not found.  Will be checking for new links or similar resources.

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What organs need to be weighed after death in the course of an autopsy?
  • What hours can a typical autopsy resident expect to work?
  • What is the relationship between a junior resident and a senior resident?


A procedures guides to residents working in the NCI autopsy department. Mix of administrative and how-to materials including:

  • Hours and Rotation on Autopsy Service
  • Autopsy Responsibilities for Residents During Other Rotations
  • Work-up and Sign-Out
  • Instructions for Dictation of Autopsy Reports
  • Delinquent Autopsies (Autopsies Older Than 60 days)
  • Gross Examination – Outline of Basic Method, to be modified as needed for individual cases
  • Safety Considerations

Although this is not for a criminal morgue, many procedures are similar.

For more on autopsy procedures, see Everything and Everyone Dies.



District of Columbia Mortuary Unit Standard Operating Procedures

District of Columbia Mortuary Unit Standard Operating Procedures – http://ocme.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocme/publication/attachments/Mortuary%20Operations%20Manual%2010.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some representative duties of an autopsy assistant?
  • What are some representative protocols for body bags?
  • Under what circumstances would a body be x-rayed?
  • What’s the sequence of events in an autopsy?
  • How are samples processed for DNA studies?


This 31 page guide mostly focuses on autopsy and lab testing. The last two sections, Safety and Mortuary Security may be helpful to stories with scenes in the autopsy lab. The Safety section includes information on closing the lab for the day.

[Armed Forces] Autopsy Manual (1981)

[Armed Forces] Autopsy Manual (1981) [Army – 8-300, Navy – NAVMED P-5065, Air Force AFM 160-19] – http://www.med.navy.mil/directives/Pub/5065.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What does a chain of custody sheet look like?
  • What’s the distinction between “cause of death” and “manner of death?”
  • What’s the proper way to dissect a heart?
  • How should one remove a brain for examination?
  • What sort of supplies should you expect to find in an autopsy room?


This is an all-service manual for autopsy procedures. This 130 page guide is broken up into these seven chapters plus appendices

  • Introduction
  • Technique of the autopsy (including organ removal)
  • Pediatric autopsies with special reference to infants and fetuses
  • Aircraft accident autopsies
  • Special procedures (including photography and the handling radioactive cadavers and specimens)
  • Objectives of the medicolegal autopsy
  • Selection and preservation of tissues for further study and museum purposes
  • Appendix A – References
  • Appendix B – Equipment and supplies
  • Appendix C – Tables of average weights and measurements

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