An autopsy can help a family get answers to not only the cause of death, and in the case of potential nursing home negligence, what– if any, errors may have been made by a medical facility that may have caused the death.
After reading a news article about how a disabled nursing home patient may have ‘choked to death‘ on his lunch I was reminded by how valuable autopsies can be where a death may occur in a nursing home or hospital setting that is insulated from the public.
What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a detailed medical examination of the person’s body and organs following death to establish the specific cause. Autopsies are performed by a physician, a pathologist, who is trained to evaluate results from physical examinations and laboratory results from tissue and blood samples to determine the cause of death.
Once the examination and laboratory results have been evaluated, an autopsy report is rendered. The report notes the physical findings and states a cause(s) of death. Because the report is rendered from an impartial author, it can be particularly useful in a litigation setting. Similarly, just a the report may be useful in case against a nursing home or hospital, results may also absolve the facility of responsibility if the results do not substantiate poor care.
In order to secure the most accurate results, most pathologists suggest performing an autopsy 24 to 48-hours after the death of a person. Depending on where the death occurred and the circumstances surrounding it, the autopsy may be performed by the state medical examiner or by a physician at a private hospital.
Is an autopsy called for in cases where nursing home neglect may have occurred?
In my opinion, particularly in cases involving the elderly, autopsies can be extremely helpful in rebutting arguments made by facilities who may argue that a death was the result of ‘old age’ or due to a ‘variety complicated medical factors’.
Autopsies can be particularly helpful in the following wrongful death matters:
- Bed sores (also referred to as: decubitus ulcers, pressure sores or pressure ulcers)
- Medication errors / overdoses
- Medical errors
- Falls with accompanying subdural hematoma
If you wish to have an autopsy performed on a loved one, you should contact your coroner or local hospital to get information about facilities that can perform one at your request.
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