Mesothelioma Postmortem Examination

The families of mesothelioma victims have the right to request a postmortem examination after their loved one has died. Postmortem examinations can bring peace of mind after an individual has died of mesothelioma or another disease related to asbestos exposure.

Importance of an Autopsy

During the postmortem examination, tissue samples are taken from the deceased and examined both for asbestos fibers and the definitive anatomical changes associated with long-term asbestos exposure. An autopsy can bring closure to those who struggled with uncertainty as the disease progressed. A mesothelioma postmortem exam can also provide the basis of legal action should such redress be sought. Legal action can be a way of alerting others to the dangers of asbestos exposure, prompting them to seek medical attention and treatment.

More importantly, it may have been postmortem examinations that first provided medical science with proof that certain pathological changes in lung tissue are associated with asbestos exposure. In 1899, a physician named H. Montague Murray performed a postmortem examination on a 33-year-old asbestos factory worker who was the tenth to die of respiratory difficulties in a relatively short period of time. Dr. Murray found significant interstitial fibrosis, or scarring of the tissues between the air sacs of the lungs, as well as “curious bodies” in the lungs. Although Dr. Murray never published his findings, he did report them to a British parliamentary committee 7 years later, giving the first substantiated description of asbestos-related pulmonary disease.

Additional Proof of Mesothelioma


In addition to postmortem examinations, other types of information can help to substantiate a legal claim of asbestos exposure:

  • Mesothelioma pathology report: A mesothelioma pathology report is the medical document that confirms a mesothelioma diagnosis. It contains the results of tissue sample tests, generally with information on a tumor’s grade and stage.
  • Depositions: Coworkers, family, and friends of the deceased may be able to help substantiate occupational asbestos exposure. Many coworkers may have asbestos-related diseases themselves, which lends credence to the claims of the deceased. In addition, family and friends of the deceased may have been put in harm’s way through asbestos dust traveling on their deceased relative’s skin and clothing.

Limited Postmortem

Some families of mesothelioma patients may be opposed to postmortem examinations on religious or other philosophical grounds. These families have the option of requesting a limited autopsy in which only the parts of the deceased’s body affected by mesothelioma are examined.