The death of a loved one or a family member is always a traumatic event. Funeral arrangements need to be made, friends and family need to be notified, and there are always a lot of particulars that need to be attended to. If the deceased has a history of occupational exposure to asbestos, one of the particulars that needs to be attended to is the question of an autopsy. The autopsy can be limited to the lungs, although in some cases a full autopsy may be necessary. An autopsy is an extremely useful tool in obtaining Workers’ Compensation benefits for the surviving spouse and/or family of the decedent. In many instances, the autopsy report has been the main medical report relied upon in establishing a Workers’ Compensation claim for death benefits.

An autopsy may be necessary for several reasons. Asbestos is a well-known cancer-causing agent. Lung cancer is attributable to occupational exposure to asbestos, as well as to cigarette smoking. Many individuals who pass away from lung cancer have a history of occupational exposure to asbestos, as well as a smoking history. In order to file a Workers’ Compensation claim for death benefits when an individual passes away from lung cancer, it is necessary to determine whether the medical condition known as asbestosis, or asbestos fibers, are present in the decedent’s lung. This finding can be made through an autopsy. In individuals who pass away from the medical condition of mesothelioma, an autopsy should sometimes be performed to determine whether the individual also suffered from asbestosis. Individuals with a history of occupational exposure to asbestos who pass away from a heart-related condition should also have an autopsy performed to determine whether the asbestos exposure played a role in the heart condition.

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Despite our general recommendation for an autopsy, each client’s circumstances are different, and we invite you to review the situation with a member of our legal staff.

Certainly, you should discuss the need for the autopsy with your loved ones prior to the time of his passing. Your family members, treating physicians, and funeral director need to be advised that you may request a limited autopsy at the time of death.

For more information regarding this subject, please feel free to telephone our offices.