Brain autopsy is a decision that individuals and their families can make only after thoughtful consideration. The decision has important emotional and practical implications. Members of the professional staff at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern are available to talk with you and answer your questions.
The bereavement period is not the optimal time to begin thinking about an autopsy. The time to start thinking about brain autopsy is now, even though death may be years away. Early discussion reduces the stress of such decisions at the time of death. Your decision may be influenced by a variety of factors.
- Diagnosis -- At present, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of neurodegenerative dementia can only be diagnosed with 100% certainty through a brain autopsy.
- Concerns about genetic factors -- If other family members develop dementia in the future, confirmed diagnosis of previous cases is important, especially if treatment becomes available.
- Religious or cultural factors may influence attitudes toward brain autopsy, and individuals may feel the need to consult with religious leaders in their community.
- Benevolence -- Brain donation often helps family members feel that they have provided a gift of hope to future generations, thereby diminishing the sense of hopelessness and despair.
Please consider that we are not able to accept every donation.
If the patient was never seen as part of research or for a clinical evaluation at Northwestern University's Alzheimer's Disease Center, it may be necessary for us to review the patient’s medical records to determine whether or not the donation would be appropriate for our research. Please call our office at 312-926-1851 between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, to discuss the feasibility of a brain donation.