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Medical Malpractice Suits and Autopsies

Cyril Wecht, MD, JD
JAMA. 1991;266(3):360-361. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470030060013.
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To the Editor.  —In the March 6 A Piece of My Mind entitled "Coming Home,"1 Goldstein comments on the psychological pressures associated with a medical malpractice lawsuit. I believe him.Are there some untoward events that could be prevented from developing into malpractice lawsuits? Yes, there are, especially in many situations involving a death that was not expected and is not understood. A complete, thorough, and timely autopsy by a competent, experienced forensic pathologist will, more often than not, provide a definitive and objective explanation that the attending physician can relate to the family. While this approach does not guarantee that the family will not sue the physician or hospital, it markedly diminishes the likelihood of such a hostile undertaking.Goldstein tells us about "the case of the elderly man who died unexpectedly the day before planned discharge. There was no autopsy...." Evidently, there was a subsequent malpractice lawsuit


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