Frequently Asked Questions About Autopsies

When an individual passes away, families and loved ones are often left with a lot of questions. This is especially true when death occurs unexpectedly. Though it may be a painful experience, requesting an autopsy can provide answers as to what happened, and reveal if the death could have been avoided altogether. 

Autopsies are not as common as they once were. Over the past 50 years, autopsy rates have declined by more than 50%. Today, they are generally not performed unless requested. 

But, if negligence is suspected as the cause of death, an autopsy report can provide invaluable insight for a wrongful death lawyer in Indiana. So when should you request an autopsy and what should you expect afterward? Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the autopsy process.

Who Can Request an Autopsy Report?

In Indiana, the law states that the only parties who can order an autopsy are:

  • Elected coroners 
  • County health officers
  • Judges
  • Prosecuting Attorneys
  • Families or next of kin of the deceased. 

Additionally, the legal code also states that death is required to be investigated if the individual died of violence, was found dead, or otherwise died of suspicious causes. In all cases, families ultimately have the right to refuse autopsies or pursue them.

Who Is Qualified to Perform An Autopsy? 

There are many medical professionals who are capable of performing an autopsy. When an autopsy is ordered by the state, it usually is performed by an appointed medical examiner, who is usually a pathologist, or a county coroner. 

It should be noted that county coroners are elected, but may not even be licensed doctors. If an autopsy is requested by the family, they have the right to choose who performs the examination. If you do not believe the coroner is qualified, it’s a good idea to seek out other third-party autopsy providers.

If it is suspected that negligence occurred at the hospital where the individual passed away, it may be wise to request the autopsy be performed by an independent third-party. This can be done through a local medical examiner office or a private autopsy practice.

How Soon Should an Autopsy Be Performed?

It is best to request an autopsy be performed as soon as possible following an individual’s passing. Though it may be during a very difficult time, delaying the examination can result in decomposition and less-insightful information. However, the exam can still be performed on bodies that have been embalmed. But for better results, it’s a good idea for family members to act quickly.

What Information Will Be Provided to an Indianapolis Injury Lawyer from an Autopsy? 

Autopsies are a thorough examination of all major organs, including heart, lung, brain, and kidneys, as well as skeletal and nervous system notes. Once the pathologist has concluded their examination, an autopsy report is sent out that can confirm the cause of death, as well as any other previously undocumented conditions or illnesses. Statistics have shown that 20-40% of autopsies revealed conditions that were previously unknown. All of this can be vitally helpful for establishing the cause of death and the role of negligence in a potential wrongful death lawsuit filed by your attorney.

Who Pays for an Autopsy? 

Unless ordered by the state, families are required to pay for an autopsy. It’s important to note that medical insurance does not cover this procedure. Autopsies may cost between $3000 and $5000, although that amount may be worked into a wrongful death lawsuit payout should the case go to trial.

Find the Right Indiana Injury Attorney For You

If your loved one has passed away and you’re feeling confused as to what happened, it may have been the result of negligence. If that’s the case, you need Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys that will fight to be your advocate. Every family deserves to know what happened to their loved one, as well as seek damages for the devastating loss that occurred. Contact Christie Farrell Lee & Bell so we can start fighting for you.