Is there life in private autopsies?
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A new report by watchdogs ProPublica and PBS’s Frontline concludes that autopsies on senior citizens are increasingly rare. A mere 2% of those 1.8 million seniors 65 and older who died in 2008 received post-mortem exams. But when bodies were double-checked, it turns out plenty of causes of death were misidentified and led to killers – institutional as well as villainous – walking free.
Hospitals are overwhelmed and underfunded; there’s a shortage of trained doctors in medical examiners’ offices; there’s a lack of national standards. In most states, doctors can sign a death certificate without seeing the body. “When it comes to the elderly, the system errs by omission,” the report concludes.
Of course, if the official cause of death is wrong, survivors might not receive the right payouts from insurance companies; in some cases – such as negligence by medical caregiver – civil and criminal suits might never be issued.
Does anyone see an opportunity here?
There are already a few private autopsy companies operating in the U.S. 1-800-AUTOPSY, Medi-Legal Services, American Autopsy Service, Inc., Glenoaks Pathology Medical Group, Inc., Private Autopsy Service (motto: “Truth in Death”) and others operate regionally as supplemental services to hospitals.
But is there critical mass enough to establish a national chain of autopsy clinics? Could a well-funded heavy hitter – such as an insurance company – consolidate the regionals and become a unified megaforce in the post-mortem industry?
And could a pharmaceutical and supply distribution giant like Ohio’s Cardinal Health, Inc. (NYSE: CAH) capitalize on a widespread private autopsy trend? More autopsies, more toe tags.
Or have all those end-of-the-year Grim Reaper cartoons gotten to me?
Foolish blogger Buzz McClain is not an investor in any of the firms mentioned, and he hopes he never has need for an autopsy service.