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What was the "Cause of Death?"

 

A:

This is one of the first questions I will ask when a prospective client calls about a possible wrongful death case.

The reason I want to know what the cause of death was is that it will give me key information about how the death occurred. The problem is that most family members have no idea of exactly what was the cause of death. Instead, they read from the death certificate which says "Cardiopulmonary arrest," or "Cardiac arrest."

What those medical terms mean is that (1) the heart and lungs stopped, or (2) the hear stopped.

That's what happens to everyone who dies. The heart and lungs stop working. However, those observations do not tell us WHY the person died. Why did their heart stop? Why did their lungs stop?

The only real way to definitively know how and why a person died is to have an autopsy done.

An autopsy is a clinical examination of a dead person's body by a qualified doctor known as a pathologist.

Often an autopsy will reveal important information about why someone died. Importantly, the results of an autopsy can help or hurt a possible case.