Trust pathologist conducts UK's first obesity post mortem

A pathologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has led the UK’s first ever televised post-mortem to understand the impact obesity has on the human body, as part of a documentary for BBC Three.
Dr Mike Osborn, who is also the post-mortem adviser for the Royal College of Pathologists, performed the televised autopsy on a female donor from America who weighed nearly 17 stone. He and his specialist team carried out the procedure to discover what excess fat does to the body’s vital organs; the first time in the UK a post-mortem has been carried out to demonstrate this.
Obesity: The Post Mortem was commissioned by the BBC as part of its remit to educate people through its factual programming. With almost three quarters of British adults likely to be overweight or obese in less than 20 years, it is an important area of medical research.

The post-mortem revealed dramatic changes within the body and organs of the donor related to her obesity. The most striking finding was of an extremely large heart which showed features in keeping with heart failure due to hypertensive (high blood pressure) heart disease which had led to very significant pulmonary oedema (fluid within the lungs). The kidneys and liver were also found to be damaged with significant amounts of fat seen within the abdominal wall and around the abdominal organs.
The programme also gave a rare insight into post-mortems. This is a vital part of medical practice as it is only through a post-mortem that clinicians can find out the full medical story and pinpoint the exact reasons behind an individual’s death. This has significant clinical benefits because it allows doctors to understand exactly what happened to a patient and apply the lessons learnt to future cases.
Dr Mike Osborn says:
“Obesity is a visible health issue but still very poorly understood. Making this documentary was an opportunity to explore this increasingly common condition and allow the wider public to learn more about the problems associated with obesity.”
Notes to editors
Obesity: The Post Mortem is a 7 Wonder and Third Street co-production for BBC Three. It is available to view on the BBC Three website