An Untimely Death – usually when we’re confronted with an unexpected loss of a loved one, there is immediate confusion and mental fog. Within seconds our cognitive functioning essentially shuts down the comprehension of information once we hear bad news. If a family member or close friend dies, for instance, many don’t recall whether the hospital or doctors discussed the option of an autopsy, or they just say no without any thought to the response. This reality is particularly relevant when a young to middle age person passes away, or someone declines quickly when seemingly healthy.   


Unless a strong moral, religious or ethical objection exists and assuming you want to learn what happened, the key point is to insist that a pathologist, coroner or the hospital conduct a full autopsy.   This should include a complete toxicology screen. Such findings are crucial to better understanding what occurred. Further, the results may be of particular importance regarding health issues that may affect you.  And a formal report is often essential in determining whether there is a viable wrongful death case.


Further, within a day or so (if possible), write a diary. Jot down as many details as possible, such as names and titles, which said what (word for word), times, dates, etc. Notate everything even if it seems irrelevant. What helps trigger memories is to think about how you felt at the time, concentrate on what you saw and heard such as colors and words, and depending on the circumstances recall what you might have smelled. Amazingly, such simple techniques often bring forth crucial remembrances. Finally, ask other family members or close friends who have knowledge of the situation to create a diary as well.


Ultimately, if there is a medical-legal need to investigate and prosecute a wrongful death claim, an autopsy and a diary are essential to proving a case.  Unfortunately, often families must live forever with unresolved issues and unanswered questions, and guilt overwhelms them when they learn that a potential legal case could not be filed because there was no autopsy. These actions better protect you and your family.