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Autopsies Help Prove Cause of Death

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There is nothing more trying than losing a loved one. Loved ones left behind are called upon to make decisions on behalf of the deceased in a short period of time. One of those decisions that loved ones are called upon to decide is whether the decedent should have an autopsy.

Autopsies are performed by pathologists at the request of either a coroner or a family member for the purpose of determining the cause of death of a decedent. Autopsies are not always requested by a coroner particularly when the decedent has been hospitalized for a considerable length of time. The American Medical Association has determined that medical malpractice is the 3rd leading cause of death in America today. Many hospitals now have now hired teams of pathologists as employees of the hospital creating a conflict of interest between those who contract with the coroners’ office to perform autopsies and the hospital who may be the subject of a wrongful death/medical malpractice lawsuit.

When a coroner decides to have an autopsy perform, typically the consent of the decedent’s family is not required. However, when the coroner’s office has determined that the cause of death is not at issue, the family has the right to request an independent autopsy at their own expense.

Autopsies may be performed at the request of an insurer in a workers’ compensation setting where death benefits are based upon an occupational disease or to rule out whether the decedent has partaken any illegal drugs or alcohol in proximity of the death.

In cases involving claims of wrongful death, it is wise to request that an autopsy be performed in order to establish by cause of death by an independent qualified professional pathologist who can be used to testify at trial if necessary. In cases involving accidental death and the incident is covered by an accidental death insurance policy, the cause of death may be contested by an insurance company thereafter as to whether the death was accidental or not. An autopsy may be used to prove that the death was accidental. If a loved one dies in a nursing home or hospital and you believe or suspect that the death was caused by medical or nursing home negligence, an autopsy would clearly be appropriate in that case.

There have been a number of cases where the risk manager of a hospital or nursing home has approached a grieving family with the purpose of persuading the family to forego the expense of an autopsy. Of course, without an autopsy, there is less evidence available to show that the cause of death was the result of a hospital or nursing home’s negligence/malpractice.

Hence, if you suspect that your loved one’s passing was due to the negligence of another including but not limited to the malpractice of a hospital or nursing home, it is wise to request the services of an independent parthologist to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Failure to do so could be prejudicial to your legal rights and remedies.

If you suspect that your family or you have a claim for wrongful death, you should consult with an experienced trial lawyer. Boise Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Trial Attorney Alan Morton has over 31 years of experience in helping victims of personal injury and wrongful death seek and obtain compensation for their injuries and damages. Mr. Morton is available to meet with you at his office or your home, workplace, hospital or any other convenient location for a free initial consultation to discuss your legal rights and remedies. You can reach Mr. Morton at 208.344.5555, toll free at 888.716.8021 or by completing an online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation. Mr. Morton has assisted thousands of families and individuals work through the maze associated with personal injury and wrongful death claims, and he is available to help you better understand how you should proceed in order for you to protect your legal rights.

Category: Wrongful Death

Alan Morton
Advocate for Justice/Trial Lawyer

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