Explainer: what you should know about autopsy

THE controversial death of young music artiste Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, better known by his stage name ‘Mohbad’, has sparked public outrage as several videos emerged as possible evidence for the cause of the 27-year-old.

His death has led to the Police launching an investigation as millions of Nigerians continue to mourn his passing.

According to the Police, the probe became imperative following a growing public demand to know what killed the singer.

The ICIR reported that the deceased body was exhumed on Thursday, September 21, for an autopsy as part of the inquiry process.

An average Nigerian is familiar with an autopsy, but many do not understand its procedures.

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy involves a series of examinations to ascertain the cause of death, evaluate the effects of a disease, establish the evolution and mechanisms of disease processes, and occasionally satisfy legal obligations after death. A dead body’s organs and structures are dissected and examined. The process is sometimes called a post-mortem examination and is typically carried out by a pathologist.

 The word autopsy is derived from the Greek autopsia, meaning “the act of seeing for oneself.”

The interest in the cause of a person’s death stretches back to the Greek physicians of three thousand years ago, who called the post-mortem study an “autopsy.”  During the Renaissance, this became crucial to medical education in nations like Paris, Padua, and Parma.

Although in other places, autopsies have helped find solutions to puzzles that are impossible to solve. Some nations, like Nigeria, still do not adopt it broadly. While some people feel the dead should be left in peace, others blame religion and esoterism for their ideas.

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According to the National Institutes of Health, there are mainly two types of autopsy: forensic and clinical.

Forensic autopsy, also known as medicolegal autopsy, is done at the request of the police, prosecutor, or court by a forensic pathologist habitually in unusual (violent) deaths, otherwise in sudden, unexpected deaths. The goal of forensic autopsies is to determine whether or not death was due to natural causes.

Clinical autopsy, also known as “pathological autopsy,” is done to diagnose the disease that has caused the death of an individual in natural circumstances. It also may be done if the disease is known before death to advance scientific knowledge of the condition further. 

The procedure

Autopsy is mainly carried out like a surgical procedure. Usually, it is carried out with the deceased’s family’s permission. A pathologist does it with a technician’s help. The place where the autopsy is performed is comparable to an operating room in a hospital.

The body is well-positioned on an examining table while pictures and X-rays are taken. The pathologist examines the body and notes how it appears.

To inspect the chest and abdominal organs, the expert cuts the body from the collarbone to the lower belly. Each organ is given microscopic tissue samples, which may also be submitted for chemical analysis or microbiological culture.

The brain is typically examined as well. Cutting through the skull and scalp is necessary. As the brain is a highly delicate body organ, it could take up to three weeks to examine it carefully and appropriately.



    For the pathology section to do additional testing, some organs may need to be held for up to six weeks. After the autopsy, the skin is sutured again, and the organs are restored. In general, the post-mortem surgery takes two to four hours.

    The family’s funeral home can pick up the body after the autopsy is concluded. If the family wants the body to be complete before being buried or cremated, the funeral may be postponed for a few days or weeks if some organs are kept for additional testing. The funeral director can make arrangements to embalm the body in this situation.

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    The full results of the autopsy are typically not accessible until around six to twelve weeks after the autopsy. However, a preliminary report is usually ready within the first few days of the procedure.

    In Mohbad’s case, the police have announced that the autopsy is completed and results are being awaited.

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    Fatimah Quadri is a Journalist and a Fact-checker at The ICIR. She has written news articles, fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy in an effort to combat information disinformation.
    She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected]

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

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