The role of the autopsy in medical malpractice cases, II: Controversy related to autopsy performance and reporting

Kevin E. Bove, Clare Iery, Johannes Bjornsson, Micheal Bell, John J. Buchino, Kim A. Collins, Gregory J. Davis, Marsella Fierro, Stephen A. Geller, Randy Hanzlick, Dean Havlik, Grover M. Hutchins, Eun Young Lee, Lawrence C. Nichols, Joseph Parisi, John Sinard, J. Thomas Stocker, Keith Volmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Context. - We studied 99 appellate court records in cases of alleged medical malpractice and found no relationship between discrepant clinical and autopsy findings and outcome of litigation. Standard-of-care issues and not diagnostic accuracy were at the heart of every case. Objective. - To characterize and discuss issues related to the autopsy and/or pathologist behavior that were raised in court records of medical malpractice litigation. Design. - In 18 appellate court records, issues were raised about quality of autopsy performance and reporting or about death certification. The details of these controversies are succinctly reported here in a manner intended to be instructive to pathologists who perform autopsies in a hospital setting or on a private fee-for-service basis. Conclusion. - Autopsy reports are intended to provide objective medical information in a coherent format to the patient's medical record, to the attending physician and other concerned staff physicians, to other health care professionals, and to the families of the deceased. Inevitably, occasions arise that require legal counsel to be added to this list of parties with a legitimate interest. Our findings emphasize that incomplete, incoherent, obfuscated, or delayed reporting of autopsy findings do not meet professional standards, are unethical if intentional, and may be counterproductive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1032-1035
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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