Journal Article
Study

Body of evidence: do autopsy findings impact medical malpractice claim outcomes?

Gartland RM, Myers LC, Iorgulescu JB, et al. J Patient Saf. 2020.

This study reviewed medical malpractice claims spanning a 10-year period involving deaths related to inpatient care. Two physicians completed a blinded review of the claim to determine whether there was major, minor or no discordance between the final clinical diagnoses and the pathological diagnoses ascertained at autopsy. The researchers found that 31% of claims demonstrated major discordance between autopsy and clinical findings. The most common diagnoses newly discovered on autopsy were infection or sepsis, pulmonary or air embolus, and coronary atherosclerosis. In addition, the researchers found that performing an autopsy was not associated with either the likelihood of payout on a malpractice or the median size of that payout. They conclude that physicians should not hesitate to advocate for autopsies to investigate unexpected in-hospital deaths.