An autopsy refers to a detailed medical examination by a forensic pathologist or physicians who are specifically trained in the study of diseases of abnormalities. During an autopsy or a post-mortem examination, the forensic pathologist examines the deceased person's body both internally and externally. The goal of the autopsy is to determine or confirm the cause of death. In addition to visual examinations, the pathologist may also examine the victim's tissues and organs.
Why is an Autopsy Important?
An autopsy is not always required to prove wrongful death. But, an autopsy is crucial in a wrongful death case because it could help prove with certainty what caused the individual's death. For example, if the individual was injured in a car accident, but passed away several weeks or months after the accident, an autopsy would help prove that the cause of death was not something the patient later developed, but the result of trauma suffered in a car crash.
Another reason to do an autopsy is that it provides more certain evidence when it comes to cause of death compared to say, a death certificate. For example, if a person died of cardiac arrest. While this is satisfactory in most cases, it is good to have more specific information if you are alleging that the death was the result of negligence or wrongdoing.
A more careful internal examination during an autopsy might help pinpoint a cause of death such as an aneurysm or a blocked coronary artery. So, if that cardiac arrest was caused by a doctor failing to diagnose a heart condition such as a blocked artery, then you may have a basis to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who failed to diagnose the heart condition. Autopsies are extremely important in medical malpractice cases.
What Happens After the Autopsy?
When you find out what out what caused your loved one's death, there are other questions such as whether the death could have been prevented and whether someone else's negligence or wrongdoing caused the death. If your loved one's death could have been prevented and if it appears that the death was caused by negligence or wrongdoing, you may have a wrongful death case against the at-fault party or parties.
A wrongful death lawsuit is typically filed by the close relatives of the deceased such as a spouse, child, parents or anyone else who was financially dependent on the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits seek damages such as medical expenses, lost future income, pain and suffering and loss of love, care and companionship.
Having an autopsy performed could be an extremely emotional decision for many people. Some may object because or moral or religious grounds. And sometimes, grieving individuals may decide not to have an autopsy done during their time of sadness and confusion. However, it is important to remember that if you decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit later, having an autopsy report can be extremely valuable when it comes to proving your case. Contact an experienced Orange County wrongful death lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.