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Are Autopsies Required for Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

Can You File a Malpractice Suit Without an Autopsy?

If you had a loved one who was one of the approximately 250,000 Americans that die each year from a medical error, a malpractice lawsuit can provide some helpful compensation. Before you file, however, you might be wondering things like whether an autopsy is required and how you can arrange to have one done. Explore this guide to answer all your questions about how autopsies affect wrongful death lawsuits based upon medical malpractice.

Are Autopsies Legally Required?

The most important thing to know is that autopsies are not a legal requirement for a wrongful death malpractice suit. In Pennsylvania, autopsies are only legally required in the event of rare issues like an unidentified body, so the state will likely not automatically step in and conduct an autopsy just because you file a malpractice suit. Not only do malpractice suits not trigger an autopsy, but there is also no legal requirement that you can only sue after an autopsy. Even if you don't have autopsy results, you are still legally allowed to sue someone else for medical malpractice.

Why You Should Consider an Autopsy Anyway

An autopsy might not be a legal requirement, but it is still useful because it is a form of evidence. In most medical malpractice cases, an autopsy is the main way you prove your argument in court. Autopsies are important because they help to show exactly why the deceased passed away. This is very relevant because any Pennsylvania medical malpractice suit requires you to prove that the defendant's actions caused or contributed to the person's death. The autopsy can both prove your legal arguments and disprove your opponent's potential defenses. For example, if a hospital's lack of hygiene caused your father to pass away from a deadly infection, autopsy results showing that the same bacteria found in the hospital was found in your father's wounds would be very useful to your case.

How to Arrange an Autopsy

If your loved one has just passed away and you are a family member, you can request an autopsy. Your local coroner will look at your request and see whether or not they think an autopsy is necessary. If they turn down your request, you can still get an autopsy. There are private forensic pathologists who can perform autopsies in exchange for a fee. Even if it has been a while since your loved one passed away, it's possible to arrange an autopsy. Your Allentown personal injury lawyer can help you get the proper permits needed to disinter a person for an autopsy. Just keep in mind that this process can be a little costly and may not provide a lot of detailed information. Depending on your relationship with the deceased, it may take some time to get permission from the deceased's heirs.

What to Do If an Autopsy Isn't an Option

In some cases, an autopsy is not a viable option either because the body was cremated before you decided to sue or because autopsies are against the deceased's medical beliefs. In these situations, you'll need to consult with an experienced Allentown personal injury lawyer. There are cases where other types of evidence, such as medical records or hospital logs, can still provide a lot of insight into the case. Your lawyer will be able to discuss your unique situation and explain whether or not a lack of autopsy will hurt your lawsuit. If you have any other questions about malpractice suits, Metzger & Kleiner is here to help. Our malpractice lawyers can explain how the process works and discuss how autopsy results will affect your case. To schedule a consultation with our Philadelphia or Lehigh Valley office, call 215-567-6616 or fill out our online form today.

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