Earlier this week, we discussed the troubling fact that few hospitals regularly perform autopsies on deceased patients today. In teaching hospitals, which have a mission of educating young medical professionals, the autopsy rate is currently around 20 percent. Private and community hospitals, which make up about 80 percent of such facilities in New Jersey and throughout the U.S., rarely conduct autopsies.
If a member of your family suddenly and inexplicably passed away at a hospital or medical facility, you would certainly want to know the reason for his or her death. However, in most hospitals today, that most likely won't be an option. This is because many health care facilities have phased out autopsies almost completely, largely due to cost and apprehension about medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits being filed against them.
In February 2008, a woman underwent an elective hysterectomy at a Navy medical center. Not long after the procedure, she began to feel severe pain and discomfort in her abdomen, which was not an expected side effect of the procedure. She returned to the medical center several times, complaining of pain and pressure, but her symptoms were neither seriously investigated nor treated. In July 2009, more than one year after she had been experiencing pain, an emergency room doctor finally ordered a CT scan. The scan showed a foreign object in the woman's pelvis, which was later found to be a piece of a medical instrument used during the hysterectomy.