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Autopsy - Wrongful Death - Medical Examiner refused to conduct an autopsy

Cumberland, MD |

My 60 year old sister fell in the shower at a nursing facility and fractured her tailbone tried to get up and fell again fracturing her hip. She died a week after the fall, and the medical examiner indicated that since there were no signs of trauma on her body and after speaking with the nursing home he determined that her death was accidental due to the fall and complication of possible clotting. We asked several times for an autopsy and was told that in fracture cases autopsies are not conducted at the discretion of the medical examiner. We will be speaking to a lawyer about wrongful death because she was at risk for falling and shouldn't been alone. Will it damage my case if an autopsy wasn't done? We are now living with the regret of not getting one done?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

First, I am terribly sorry for your loss. Although an autopsy does help in some cases, it is not the end all. The key is making that link, that causal connection between the neglect and the cause of death. If the death certificate gives a reason or cause of death and is directly linked to the neglect, most of the work is already done, thus an autopsy would only bolster an already perfect storm. In the scenario you have presented, there is not enough information get a clear understanding of the facts, to give quality personalized advice, however an autopsy is usually needed to rule out other causes of death that the defense may want to use to cast doubt in the mind of the jury. If the cause of death is known to be a result of the fall and the fall can be linked to neglect rather than an unfortunate, unavoidable accident, then it is far from a disaster to not have one. There are many wrongful deaths cases we have been involved with and have been successful proving, without autopsy's. A good quality medical expert will be bale to make the connection Also, you did not mention when this happened so you need to be mindful of the statute of limitations on wrongful death cases in Maryland. if there is one.

The response herein is for informational purposes only is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. I am a lawyer licensed in the State of Maryland only, and I am not your lawyer (unless you have been in my office and signed a contract). This communication is not intended as legal advice, and no attorney client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.


Due to the proximity of the trauma of a hip fracture with the death of your sister a lawyer should not have a great deal of difficulty in having a medical expert address this issue favorably without the necessity of an autopsy. Please review my blog article on autopsies in long term care settings at As you will understand after reading this article you are not alone in deciding to avoid an autopsy. Lawyers such as myself are used to working without that tool in preparing our cases.



Great information! Another best answer! Thank you so much!


Although an autopsy is helpful, it isn't necessary. State laws vary, but for general information, you can read about nursing home abuse and wrongful death on my website.

The answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is for informational purposes only.

Licensed in PA & NJ. 29% Contingency Fee. Phone: 215-510-6755



Very informative! Great response! Thanks!

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