I'm translating a text where a description of a clinical study is given in which animals are subjected to necropsy. One of the sentences goes like this:

If they consider it necessary, the autopsist may take pictures of macroscopic changes reflecting the damage left by the drug.

But is it really autopsist? After all, not autopsy was performed but necropsy. I found almost no results for "necropsist". Are there other options?

The Russian word is патологоанатом, which is basically the same as pathoanatomist - but googling brings up too few results with the word "pathoanatomist", so I wonder if there might be more widely used terms for this.

  • 1
    Note that autopsy and necropsy do overlap in usage. Necropsy often, but not mandatorily, involves animals. Jan 23, 2018 at 11:44
  • 10
    Note that "sacrifice" has strong connotations of religious or spiritual practice. Jan 23, 2018 at 13:12
  • 4
    In the scientific world, 'sacrifice' is the accepted term for this practice. The linked definition 3a is the intended meaning.
    – IconDaemon
    Jan 23, 2018 at 13:17
  • 1
    "not autopsy was performed but necropsy" - are they different? > english.stackexchange.com/questions/43052/…
    – MSalters
    Jan 23, 2018 at 14:20
  • 6
    Upon seeing "necro-" and "sacrificed", I thought I'd stumbled upon the RPG StackExchange. Jan 23, 2018 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


The word you’re looking for is:


An expert in pathology; a specialist who examines samples of body tissues for diagnostic or forensic purposes.

  • 3
    Likewise forensic pathologist for criminal investigations. They perform autopsies/necropsies to determine cause of death and gather evidence for investigation and prosecution.
    – Jon Purdy
    Jan 23, 2018 at 10:27
  • 6
    Further reading: Veterinary pathology(Wikipedia)
    – Chris H
    Jan 23, 2018 at 16:09
  • This is a very general term, as a pathologist does a lot of things beside autopsy/necropsy - including examining samples taken from living tissue. Examiner or researcher are equally valid.
    – talrnu
    Jan 23, 2018 at 19:19
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    @talmu "... may take pictures of macroscopic changes reflecting the damage left by the drug." is an example of something a pathologist does. Examiner or researcher are too broad.
    – IconDaemon
    Jan 23, 2018 at 20:04
  • @JonPurdy and there lies the potential for strangeness - "pathologist" is popularly associated with "coroner" quite strongly... Jan 24, 2018 at 0:41

Your question initially makes it sound like you're looking for a noun describing the person's job (and then "veterinary pathologist" might be correct, I think). But if you're just trying to translate that sentence in context, I would think that the absolute least ambiguous way to translate it would be:

If they consider it necessary, the person performing the necropsy may take pictures of macroscopic changes reflecting the damage left by the drug.

It doesn't matter what their job description is in general; what matters in this sentence is that they're the person performing the actual necropsy which is being discussed in this sentence.

Alternatively, it's possible that in the original context there is no necropsy necessarily being performed, and that the sentence's oblique reference to "the necropsist" is meant to imply that

If they [who?] consider it necessary, a necropsy may be performed in order to take pictures of macroscopic changes reflecting the damage left by the drug.


If they [who?] consider it necessary, the animal may be necropsied in order to take pictures of macroscopic changes reflecting the damage left by the drug.

In which case, the least ambiguous translation might be

If it is desirable to photograph the macroscopic changes reflecting the damage left by the drug, a necropsy may be performed for the purpose of taking such photographs.

At which point we're left with a tautology — the sentence has been stripped to its essence, which is nothing at all. Naturally, "if" you consider it necessary to take photographs, then you "may" choose to take them! We have succeeded in conveying no information to the reader. :)

  • The last version is better if you stop at the end of the bold bit. You could also change may be to must be or is (or will be).
    – Chris H
    Jan 23, 2018 at 21:32
  • If you want to avoid the passive voice, “the pathologist may perform an autopsy to....” Jan 23, 2018 at 23:14
  • "The pathologist, or any other qualified person, may perform an autopsy to..." ;) Jan 23, 2018 at 23:22

"a specialist who performs necropsy on a sacrificed animal during a clinical study" is "a veterinary pathologist". A "medical pathologist" is an M.D. who performs necropsies on human beings.

  • Veterinary pathologists are doctors of veterinary medicine who specialize in the diagnosis of diseases through the examination of animal tissue and body fluids. Like medical pathology, veterinary pathology is divided into two branches, anatomical pathology and clinical pathology.

  • Veterinary anatomical pathology is concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the gross examination, microscopic, and molecular examination of organs, tissues, and whole bodies (necropsy).

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