General Question

Jeruba's avatar

If I want an autopsy performed, what do I have to do? And do I have to give a reason?

Asked by Jeruba (53243points) January 18th, 2021

If I have reason to think that the immediate cause of death was some mis- or malfeasance, do I have to say what, or give evidence, to initiate the process?

I don’t want to have to point to what I think it might show, in case that works against a fair and objective finding.

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9 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

You can order a private autopsy. I don’t believe you need to give any information regarding why you are ordering it, but I’m unsure what you might be asked.

This is an article from the LAT, I chose that since you are in California.

Some highlights from the article:

Make sure the pathologist is certified in anatomic or forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology.

Make sure the pathologist, not a technician, will perform the autopsy.

Ask your doctor, the funeral home or the local coroner for a referral. The College of American Pathologists ( maintains a list of board-certified pathologists who perform autopsies on a fee-for-service basis.

You can ask the hospital to do an autopsy also, but my guess is you don’t want them to do it. If it is a teaching hospital they might do one automatically, but otherwise probably not since your husband was older and in bad health.

The article also talks about the autopsy might find undiagnosed conditions you weren’t aware of.

The LAT article is worth a full read when you feel ready to digest it all.

This is Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner website.

kritiper's avatar

I was told that, in this state at least, autopsies were done on any person who dies to determine cause of death.

janbb's avatar

@kritiper That used to be my understanding but I believe now it is only done if there is some suspicion as to the cause of death. When my mother died in California no autopsy was done. I would imagine it is even less common now with so many dying of COVID.

Caravanfan's avatar

You can ask the hospital to do it, but they probably won’t. Coroner won’t unless there is a crime committed. You might be able to pay for one. What kind of malfeasance are you concerned about?

JLeslie's avatar

I want to clarify that when I wrote “ask the hospital,” I meant pay for an autopsy at the hospital if they offer that service.

Again, I doubt @Jeruba wants it done by the hospital he died at, although I’m sure MEs are supposedly supposed to be completely impartial according to state law and any ethical standards they commit to. Still…for peace of mind…just trying to put myself in her place.

Jeruba's avatar

This is helpful. Thank you. I will start with the funeral director, if that makes sense, since they now have him.

I think there were conditions that hastened his death and prevented him from coming home for hospice care, and I want to know if those included certain undiagnosed conditions. I am also concerned that the very treatment they forced on him while we could not be there may have sealed the outcome.

Should I tell an independent ME my suspicions, so he/she looks for them, or keep quiet so there’s no bias? Or—> steer them indirectly to those areas by other means?

Jeruba's avatar

@Caravanfan, I’ll PM you.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Your life insurance company might be very interested in your suspicions, and willing to underwrite the expense (which I understand can be crippling).

YARNLADY's avatar

I am so sorry for your loss

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