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The role of an autopsy in Texas wrongful death medical malpractice cases

In some hospital death cases, an autopsy is mandatory

Under Texas law, an autopsy should be performed if a patient dies within 24 hours after admission to the hospital. (Texas Statutes Art. 49.25, Sect. 6). 

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is a forensic examination of a body after death, generally by a physician trained in pathology. Generally, an autopsy will include:

• External examination of the body

• Internal examination of the body, including organs and vasculature

• Toxicology and lab work

The autopsy report will contain findings based on these examinations of the body, as well as conclusions on the cause of death and manner of death. Under the Texas Public Information Act, an autopsy report is considered a public document and is available to any requester, unless there’s some exception under the law.

Who performs the autopsy and who pays for it?

When an autopsy is required by Texas law, there’s no cost to the family. By statute, these autopsies are the responsibility of any “medical examiner, or his duly authorized deputy.”

In Houston, which is part of Harris County, Texas, the Medical Examiner’s Office is called the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. This office performs around 4,500 autopsies annually.

When an autopsy isn’t legally required, the family can decide to request and pay for an autopsy. Similarly, the family has the option to request and pay for a second-opinion autopsy by a qualified professional who is not part of a medical examiner’s office.

Autopsies and medical malpractice claims

It’s not essential to have an autopsy in order to pursue a wrongful death medical malpractice claim. In some cases, though, it can be an important source of evidence.

If your family has lost a loved one in Texas and you believe that medical malpractice may have been the cause, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney for a free strategy session about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.

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