The Lack of an Autopsy is a Barrier to Obtaining Justice
Based on TV shows like CSI and Dr. G: Medical Examiner you might think autopsies are done routinely. Unfortunately that is not the case-the reality is that the frequency of autopsies is very rare, about 5 percent. That was not always the case. In the 1960s about 50% of persons who died had an autopsy. In fact in order to maintain accreditation, hospitals were required to perform an autopsy on at least 20 percent of their patients who died. In 1970 when the 20 percent requirement stopped, the rate of autopsies has steadily declined and now only about 5 percent of patients have an autopsy. About 40 percent of hospitals do not perform autopsies at all!
One of the reasons autopsies are not being done is fear of civil liability. Doctors and hospitals’ mistakes can be hidden unless a complete autopsy and toxicology studies are done. When a family requests an autopsy, some hospitals (in an effort to deter the family) require that the family pay for the autopsy, which can cost thousands of dollars. If the family is not able to afford the cost of the autopsy, valuable evidence of the true cause of death can be lost forever. This can make it difficult to impossible to prove that a patient’s death was due to a medical mistake or medical malpractice.
If a friend or family member dies from what you think may be a medical mistake or medical malpractice, contact McKeen and Associates, P.C. and we will do our best to advise you on your legal rights.