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Wrongful Death Series Part 9: A Hospital Autopsy – How Is This Different From A Private Autopsy?

We have seen it many times. A loved one dies while in the care of a hospital, and the hospital is having issues answering your family’s questions. Someone in your family suggests to the doctor that there should be an autopsy.

For reasons within their authority, the medical examiner does not feel their office needs to conduct an autopsy. The family’s questions remain, and the hospital (either risk management or a physician) suggests that the hospital conduct an autopsy at no expense to the family.

This is a HUGE MISTAKE for several reasons that will be discussed below and will usually lead the family to a false sense of security in understanding the cause of death.

The Hospital Autopsy

A hospital autopsy is also termed a post-mortem examination of the body. These examinations generally do not endeavor to determine the cause or manner of death. Rather, these post-mortem examinations identify diseases, diagnoses, or medical problems as potentially related to the death of a patient. Some hospital autopsy examinations will be limited in scope. The exam will only be performed on a specific organ system or disease process depending on the various aspects of the medical care, as reported by the attending clinician.

The Limitations Of The Hospital Autopsy Report

A hospital autopsy is typically performed by a pathologist without specific forensic training or certification. The pathologist will compile a list of diagnoses or medical conditions to include in the final report following a hospital autopsy.

The Report:
The report from these hospital autopsies typically looks more like a detailed description of the anatomy and the various conditions of organs and tissues. What will be missing is any analysis of the condition of these body parts in relation to the cause of death. Some hospitals use this hospital autopsy to show the family the report and then allow the same physicians that treated your loved one to conclude that the cause of death was something other than any negligence. The hospital autopsy reports are so open-ended that they allow for any conclusion to be drawn from their findings.

Why You Should Opt For A Private Autopsy

Keep in mind that the hospital is taking advantage of your family’s vulnerability at this point, and you and your family should always opt for a private autopsy, demanding instead that the body of your loved one not be touched by anyone at that hospital. Remember, you are thinking that this facility may have killed your family member.

Why would you think they (the hospital) are going to do a better job analyzing them after their death?


with wrongful death case experience like our firm. We can be reached on the web at or by phone at 855HireJoe.


Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit