Post-Mortem Specimen Collection – COVID-19

Angie Szumlinski
|
December 19, 2020
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On November 2, 2020, the CDC posted recent changes to the collection and submission of post-mortem specimens from deceased persons with known or suspected COVID-19. Medical examiners, coroners, and pathologists should immediately notify their local or state health department in the event of the identification of a deceased person with known or suspected COVID-19.

Per the CDC, the following recommendations should be considered when determining if an autopsy will be performed for a deceased known or suspected COVID-19 case:

  • Medicolegel jurisdiction
  • Facility environmental controls
  • Availability of recommended personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Family and cultural wishes

The guidance goes into explicit detail about how to procure specimens, how to preserve them, how to use PPE appropriately, etc. Now you ask, why are we talking about post-mortem/autopsy care? Because it can mean the difference in the event of a claim. The CDC has given direction to Medical Directors on how to document death for a resident who has suspected COVID-19. The reason they gave the direction is that the primary cause of death isn’t always COVID-19 even if the deceased is positive. The same can be said about post-mortem care, what if the specimens weren’t procured appropriately, were contaminated, weren’t stored per recommendations?

Fast forward 2 years from now when things have resumed some normalcy and a family member decides to file a claim against your center. The documentation from physicians and coroners can be invaluable in supporting you and the care your team provided. It is no surprise, frail, elderly people are most vulnerable to COVID-19 however as sad as a death is, we shouldn’t assume it was COVID-19. Be sure to talk to your physicians and share this information. We take enough on the chin in our business, let’s not bring on more!

Stay the course, stay strong, stay well, mask up and stay tuned!


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