Can I Order an Autopsy for my Loved One Who Died?

Can I Order an Autopsy for my Loved One Who Died?
Jan 8, 2020

At Warshauer Woodward Atkins, we get calls from folks going through some of the worst moments of their lives. Sometimes, these calls come within days of a loved one’s death, when a family is seeking answers as to why their loved one is gone. During these calls, we are often asked whether an autopsy will be performed or whether one should be requested.

How States Treat Autopsies

Most states have laws mandating autopsies under certain circumstances. In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 45-16-24 requires an autopsy when someone dies: (1) as a result of violence; (2) suicide or casualty; (3) all of a sudden, when in seemingly good health; (4) in a suspicious or unusual manner, especially for those 16 years of age and younger; (5) after birth but before 7 years old, if the death is unexpected or unexplained; (6) as a result of an execution carried out by the State; (7) as an inmate; (8) after having been admitted to a hospital unconscious and without regaining consciousness within 24 hours of being admitted; (9) as a result of an apparent drug overdose; or (10) when unattended by a physician. In circumstances that clearly fall under one of these categories, the medical examiner’s office in the county where the person died will typically conduct the autopsy and render a report.

Additional Circumstances

What if the death does not fall under one of those specific categories? In those situations, you may request a private autopsy. Private autopsies are costly, usually ranging between $3,000-$5,000, and are performed by pathologists trained to determine causes of death. However, they usually result in a detailed report that can answer questions that linger after an unexpected death.

In a medical malpractice/wrongful death case, autopsies are usually a critical piece of evidence that establishes the cause of death. Sometimes, we are unable to proceed with a case without an autopsy, because we are unable to prove that the cause of death was connected to the Defendant’s negligence. Therefore, if you believe you’re loved one died as a result of someone’s negligence, it may be in your best interests to make sure an autopsy of your loved one is done.

Let Experienced Attorneys Help

If your spouse, child or other family member died unexpectedly and you are looking for answers, please feel free to contact us for a free case evaluation.