UCSF Navigation Bar

UCSF Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Home Page

Lab Manual for UCSF Clinical Laboratories

Lab Manual for SFGH

Internal Resources

Autopsy Service

Contact Information


Autopsy Administrative Office

  • 513 Parnassus Ave., Room M-55
  • San Francisco, CA 94143
  • Phone: (415) 353-1629
  • Private Fax: (415) 353-1243


Autopsy Information Sheets


The University of California San Francisco Medical Center (Parnassus Moffitt-Long Hospitals, Mission Bay Hospitals, and Mount Zion Hospital) provides the Autopsy Service as a courtesy to its physicians and their patients’ families. Postmortem examinations (autopsies) are done only upon signed consent of the legal next-of-kin or designated durable power of attorney for healthcare. Upon proper consent, autopsies are performed at no charge on patients who die in these hospitals. The Office of Patient Relations (415-353-1936) assists the physicians and families in completing the necessary paperwork. UCSF patients with terminal disease who die elsewhere (e.g., in hospice or at home) also can be autopsied at no charge providing that the Medical Examiner has released the case and the family pays for transport of the body to the Moffitt-Long Hospitals. These outpatient cases must be accepted by the Director or attending pathologist of the Autopsy Service before transport, and the paperwork is handled by the Autopsy Service directly (415-353-1629). The Autopsy Service does not do autopsies on patients who have not been evaluated or treated for their primary problem at UCSF. There is one exception: postmortem examination of the brain in cases of dementia of unknown cause; the cost of this special examination is paid by the family. Otherwise, there is no provision for fee-for-service postmortem examinations.

The Autopsy Service is part of the Department of Pathology in the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco. Approximately 180 autopsies covering a wide variety of clinical conditions seen at this university medical center are performed each year. Roughly one-third concern developmental pathology. The pathologists on the Autopsy Service are very experienced in pathologic anatomy, but also call upon the extensive subspecialty expertise of the faculty of the Department of Pathology. Thus, in every case a precise diagnosis is established and the extent of disease and cause of death documented. A final report listing all of the findings at autopsy is sent to the referring physician within one month of the procedure. Typically, the physician discusses the final report with the family and interprets the anatomic findings within the particular clinical context. The legal next-of-kin is entitled to a copy of the final report and may request one from UCSF Medical Records (415-353-2221).

Autopsies usually are performed within a few hours of the patient’s death. A complete autopsy involves dissection of organs from all body cavities—chest, abdomen and cranium. In some cases, however, the family may restrict the examination to a specific area of interest. In no case are incisions made in the face, hands or any other part of the body that may be visible at funeral. Typically, at autopsy the dissected internal organs are preserved for storage, until further study is no longer necessary. (The organs eventually are cremated.) Immediately following the autopsy, the body cavities are closed with sutures and the designated mortuary notified. Morticians are expert at preparing the body for funeral; there will be no evidence of prior autopsy—even with open casket.

Autopsy Services
Service Name Moffitt Mt. Zion Mission Bay Benioff Children's Hospital-Mission Bay SFGH VAMC


Request Service

Complete postmortem examination of brain/spinal cord, neck/thoracic organs, and abdominal organs or postmortem examination/biopsies restricted to particular regions.

Yes Yes Yes Yes

Top of Page

UCSF home page UCSF home page About UCSF Search UCSF UCSF Medical Center