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Is an autopsy required when someone dies from nursing home abuse?

An autopsy may be necessary to discover whether abuse or neglect caused a death in a nursing homeTechnically, the answer is no. An autopsy is not legally required after a patient dies in a nursing home—even if the suspected cause of death is nursing home abuse or neglect. If you have strong moral or religious objections to an autopsy, then you may not wish to authorize the procedure.

But Before You Make a Decision You Should Know This

Autopsies, while not required, may be very useful in proving the cause of your loved one’s death. Your loved one was in a nursing home because of an underlying medical condition. The nursing home is likely going to argue that it was that underlying medical condition that caused your loved one’s death. In order to recover damages in a settlement or lawsuit, you are going to have to prove that your loved one died not from natural causes, but instead from the intentional abuse or the negligence of the nursing home or nursing home staff.

An autopsy may be important evidence in proving your loved one’s cause of death because it can:

  • Rule out death by natural causes.
  • Provide specific and useful evidence about the true cause of death.

These medical findings may be useful in proving your case. Of course, other types of evidence may also be useful in proving that nursing home abuse or negligence caused your loved one’s death. Other evidence may include:

  • Your loved one’s medical records.
  • Pictures of your loved one’s body if there are bedsores, bruising, or other evidence of abuse.
  • Testimony from anyone who witnessed any abuse or neglect.

You will need to decide whether or not to authorize an autopsy soon after your loved one passes away and during a time of extreme sadness and emotional suffering. If you have any question about what you should do then we encourage you to consult with other family members, with your loved one’s doctor, with your clergyman, and with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Together, we can help you come to the decision that is right for your family during a free consultation.
 

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham