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Should You Request an Autopsy When Your Loved One Dies in a Nursing Home?

Posted On October 14, 2021

In cases of suspicious nursing home deaths, requesting an autopsy may help surviving family members prove the cause of a loved one’s death and eliminate the possibility of abuse and neglect.

Requesting an Autopsy

When a suspicious nursing home death occurs, an autopsy can prove the cause of death. Although an autopsy is not legally required in most suspicious deaths, it can prove that the person died of natural causes or under suspicious circumstances. This may indicate nursing home abuse or neglect by caregivers and staff members taking care of a loved one or family member.

Many elderly residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have underlying health conditions that impact their daily lifestyle and activities. Residents with serious heart conditions, lung problems, kidney diseases, blood diseases, cancers, and cognitive dysfunction are often confined to wheelchairs and beds with rails that prevent falls. Nursing home lawyers often witness higher incidents of physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect, in nursing home residents with limited mobility and cognitive impairment.

Residents restricted to beds are at high risk for developing conditions that may lead to death, such as:

  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Skin infections
  • Bed sores
  • Edema in legs and feet
  • Fluid around the heart

When serious underlying conditions exist in a resident who dies, the nursing home may argue that the underlying condition caused the resident’s death. If suspicious circumstances are suspected by family members, they can request an autopsy be performed by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

An autopsy may act as crucial evidence in proving the cause of death of a nursing home patient, especially if the surviving family members suspect abuse or negligence. The autopsy can overrule death by natural causes and offer detailed and helpful proof regarding the specific cause of the person’s death through the decedent’s medical records, photos of the decedent’s body, and witness statements. If bruises, open wounds, skin infections, bedsores, or signs of malnutrition or dehydration are found, this may indicate signs of abuse and neglect that constitute a wrongful death lawsuit by a nursing home lawyer in a court of law.

In Illinois, the Illinois Autopsy Act designates persons who can request or authorize an autopsy. If an autopsy is not required by law or ordered by authorities, the deceased person’s next of kin must give permission for an autopsy to be performed, usually within 24 hours after death for the most accurate results.

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