A common assumption is that medical mistakes involve poor care by doctors at hospitals that lead to patients suffering physical and emotional pain. Thousands of Chicago medical malpractice victims are proof of that reality.
However, as California Watch explained in a story this weekend, there is another area in the medical industry where costly mistakes are often made-the autopsy room. The problems of autopsy errors appear to be growing as coroners begin hiring private firms to assist with the workload. Those firms are often shown to make ghastly errors. The mistakes include dissecting the wrong body and giving inaccurate testimony about their findings at trials.
The investigation into the private autopsy world has shown that rushed caseloads are a primary reason for the problems. The situation highlights the danger of a focus on profit maximization. Some private autopsy companies conduct three autopsies in a single hour, with some employees performing nine in a single shift. Experts in the industry explain that those numbers are very high, leading to rushing and mistakes.
In addition there are concerns about the type of employees that work at these locations. Some of the employees include physicians who were fired from pubic autopsy agencies for poor work. Their hiring by private companies provides these substandard physicians with more opportunities to make mistakes and harm lives.
One expert explained, “They [private medical group employees] are not being vetted in terms of their backgrounds, their skills, their ability. You hire a company, and you take the company as a whole. And you never know what you’re getting.”
The concerns about these autopsies have important ramifications on many areas. Judges, juries, lawyers, and family members all rely on the actions of these groups to help piece together the causes of many deaths. If the findings of these autopsies are the product of poor medical expertise, than there is much cause for concern.