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The saying goes that doctors bury their medical malpractice mistakes. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of truth to the saying. Therefore, although the idea of an autopsy for a loved one is not a pleasant thought, there are occasions where an autopsy is virtually essential when medical malpractice is suspected.

An autopsy, performed by an independent and objective pathologist, is a family's last opportunity to discover whether medical mistakes caused the death of a loved one. It is the last chance to make an official record or to establish the evidence that a certain event occurred, which should not have occurred.

This can involve, for instance, discovering a pulmonary embolism, and documenting where it was found and whether it caused death. In other cases, an autopsy will document that a vessel or organ was cut or lacerated during surgery. An autopsy can be accompanied by a toxicology screen to determine whether inapproriate medications or medication levels were administered. Autopsies can and do list a cause of death, and the pathologist or coroner becomes a witness for the case.

If an autopsy is refused, and then months after the burial, a family realizes that the body needs to be examined to determine whether evidence of malpractice exists, it may be too late. On rare occasions, if the person was buried, an exhumation may be performed, but it is costly, and complicated to do, and it may not reveal what an autopsy would have revealed.

Learn more about medical malpractice.

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