Private coroners are suddenly in the spotlight

The little-known micro-industry is having a busy year -- and it’s been a long time coming.


October 13, 2020

Many Americans are facing a terrible dilemma: Their loved one(s) died mysteriously, and they want to know if COVID-19 might be the cause.

But unless they have a positive test, a lot of hospitals aren’t willing to perform an autopsy.

So grieving families with money are turning to a tiny industry of private coroners for a final diagnosis.

The US barely does autopsies anymore

Back in the late 1960s, US hospitals autopsied ~60% of patients. Today, that figure has fallen to just 4.3%, largely due to budgeting.

The sliding autopsy rate means that death certificates are more unreliable than you’d think. As much as 85% have some error in the listed cause of death.

According to the science publication Elemental, phrases like “cardiac arrest” are often just empty placeholders.

If you want peace of mind, you have to go private

That’s especially true during the pandemic. The National Association of Medical Examiners told National Geographic that private autopsies are on the up and up this year.

Companies like the Los Angeles-based 1-800-AUTOPSY say that they are busier in 2020 than ever before.

But at $10k+, a private autopsy isn’t cheap. Good luck getting your insurance to pay for that.

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