William Pagan

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Should you ask for an autopsy of your loved one?

Your loved one died unexpectedly while in the hospital, and you’re in absolute shock. You hate to outright accuse the hospital staff of doing something wrong or making a mistake, but you’re seriously questioning whether your loved one’s death was the result of medical neglect.

Do you need an autopsy to gather evidence of medical malpractice or prove what happened to your loved one? Probably. But you may not get one unless you ask for it.

Autopsies are invasive and intrusive. They also delay many religious services and burials. An autopsy also forces the deceased’s surviving relatives, already grieving their loss, to wait even longer for closure and healing. For those reasons and others, autopsies are only required under certain circumstances, such as when someone is the victim of a homicide or sudden accident. When the deceased was ill and there was a physician in attendance at the time of death, an autopsy generally isn’t considered necessary.

The third-leading cause of death in this country is medical negligence, but that’s not something that doctors and hospitals are quick to advertise. The fact that an autopsy isn’t required in many situations means that a number of deaths that should be attributed to medical malpractice are mistaken as ordinary heart failure or something else.

If your loved one’s death was sudden, an autopsy can either resolve your suspicions and allow you to move on or provide the evidence of medical malpractice that you need to hold the correct party’s responsible. Medical malpractice is far more common than most people realize, so take your suspicions to an experienced advocate as soon as possible.