There are 6 most common reasons for families to request a private autopsy of their loved one.

Each of these reasons provides a valid basis for requesting a private autopsy.  None of them are underlying justifications for the local medical examiner to assert jurisdiction and perform the desired post-mortem investigation.   

Resolve family questions about the cause of death

Perhaps the most common reason for a private autopsy is the desire of family members to know what happened to their loved ones. 

Often knowing what happened and why brings essential closure to surviving family members.

Diagnose genetic disease predisposition which may hurt future generations

Private autopsies can include post-mortem DNA testing and screening.  The purpose of such genetic diagnostic procedures is to determine if future generations are at risk of the same disease and outcome. 

DNA testing and genetic screening can often be performed through non-invasive and relatively inexpensive testing and tissue sampling. 

Diagnose and eliminate environmental risk factors that can make survivors sick

Certain cancers and other diseases are caused by environmental factors which may still be present in the decedent’s home or place of work. 

An autopsy can help determine if the cause of death is related to environmental factors that can be mitigated, so survivors do not become unnecessarily sick. 

Legal

If there is a suggestion that medical malpractice caused death, an autopsy will be required to prove this suspicion.  Also, if the decedent did not die of natural causes, homicide and wrongful death may be the reason. 

Establishing the cause of death and any manmade factors that contributed to mortality is essential to prove medical malpractice and/or wrongful death case. 

Insurance

Certain life insurance policies have different benefit amounts depending upon the reason that the applicable individual died. 

For example, a life insurance policy with a double indemnity clause for accidental death will not be paid unless it is proven that the deceased died due to an accident.

Second opinion

Private autopsies provide a second medical opinion relating to the cause of death. 

Legal reasons cause families to sometimes need to challenge the cause of death certified by the decedent’s doctor. 

For example, the attending physician may classify a death as “natural causes” (rather than accidental or wrongful) even though you might disagree and be denied certain survivor benefits. 

However, a second opinion autopsy allows families to establish the cause of death to maximize survivor benefits. 

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