Autopsies Help Establish Merit in a Medical Malpractice Case

boat1When someone has died from medical malpractice, an autopsy can provide the foundation for a successful case.

Benefits of an Autopsy in a Medical Malpractice Case

  1. An autopsy verifies the cause of death

Opinions from the most respected experts become much more convincing when accompanied by an autopsy. The majority of autopsies are conducted by pathologists with extensive training in determining cause of death. The pathologist will examine every detail of the body to determine what happened, and will note all findings in a report that can be invaluable in a wrongful death case. At the end of the autopsy, you will usually have a clear idea of what caused the death. If it was due to the actions or inaction of a medical practitioner, you will most likely know it.

  1. An autopsy is superior to a death certificate

A death certificate lists the cause of death, but often the cause listed – while accurate – will not be very useful for a lawsuit. For instance, many death certificates list “cardiopulmonary arrest” as the cause of death. To the layman the term might seem quite specific, but in reality all it tells you is that the person’s heart stopped beating. When the heart stops a person dies. While the listed cause of death might be completely accurate, it will usually not give enough information to build a case on.

  1. An autopsy provides backup if an expert changes his/her mind

An attorney will use expert witnesses to help support his or her argument. One or more expert witnesses can make all the difference in winning a case – but unfortunately such witnesses can also change their minds. One day the attorney may have everything in order, and the next you may find that the expert is no longer convinced.

An autopsy report does not change from one day to the next. You can depend on it, even if an expert decides that medical malpractice was unlikely.

  1. An autopsy is often necessary to win a case

State law may not require an autopsy in a wrongful death case. However, many times you will need an autopsy to fully convince the court of medical malpractice. An autopsy may be key to winning the case. If nothing else, it will improve your positioning. The more clearly you can present evidence of medical malpractice, the more likely the court will decide in your favor.

An autopsy makes an attorney’s job easier

Even if an autopsy is not absolutely required to win a medical malpractice case, it will certainly make it easier to do so. Proving medical malpractice is often challenging for even the best attorneys. Courts are not eager to hold a doctor or medical care provider responsible for someone’s death if they can help it. Because the plaintiff attorney faces such an uphill battle, it is important to seize every opportunity to make your case stronger. An autopsy is a straightforward way of demonstrating what really happened, in a form that the court can easily understand and appreciate.

Helping You Convince the Court

If someone has died and medical malpractice has played a part, a wrongful death lawsuit is the best way to hold those responsible accountable. Gathering evidence of what occurred is a necessity, and obtaining an autopsy should be a part of your efforts. An autopsy may make all the difference in case outcome.


Kathleen A. Mary, RNC, Legal Nurse Consultant Certified is an honored medical expert and lifetime clinical scholar valued immeasurably by her plaintiff and defense attorney-clients as a time/cost-efficient asset to medical malpractice, personal injury and product liability claims. Kathleen provides flawless investigative navigation of meritorious complexities, meticulous comprehensive medical record reviews, locates trusted preeminent experts, is a recognized medical researcher and lifetime standard of care clinical consultant. For over 25 years, 100% of Kathleen’s cases (hundreds) have been positively settled without trial. Please contact Kathleen for your next medical-legal case.  



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