Why Have An Autopsy For Whitney Houston?

The police say there was no sign of foul play, so why bother to have one.

She’s dead, who really cares why she died. I liked her music, but knowing the reason isn’t going to bring her back. My husband died and they said, heart attack and that was that.

Is there a legal reason to perform one, unless the family requested it?

Usually, if someone dies without a physician attending, an autopsy is legally required.

48 is awfully young for it not to have been from a known ailment. She does have a child so this way if there’s a genetic component or some kind of predisposition, her daughter will benefit from knowing about that.

“No sign of foul play” does not equal “we know what she died from.”

How old was your husband? I am guessing he was either an older man or had a pre existing ailment. When a reletivly young person dies suddenly an autopsy is quite necessary.

Autopsies are not only performed when there is a murder. Its to determine cause of death. If the cause of death is known, no autopsy. If it isn’t, one is performed. My 104 year old grandmother did not get an autopsy. My 60 year old father who died from sudden heart failure with no prior symptoms did.

The family may want to know, or it may need to be known for insurance purposes.

From a healthcare statistics perspective, inquiries into unexpected deaths can prove useful in developing trends and patterns. For example, if it’s discovered that there is an unusually high rate of mortality among a 25-35 year old population in a given geography, researchers might link it to an environmental factor. With that information in hand, efforts can be made to address the issue, with the result that fewer people wake up dead in the long run.

For that matter, a 48 year old woman who dies in a hotel room without warning could be suffering from a contagious disease. Think Legionaire’s Disease.

Insurance is often a factor. If somebody dies in a car crash, the insurance company may want an autopsy to see if they had a heart attack and were dead by the time the car impacted - if so, the death is natural causes, not accidental. If Houston has any applicable life insurance policies, they may really want to distinguish natural causes from drowning in the bathtub after taking some prescription sedatives, a possible cause currently being bandied about in the news.

In case she was murdered it would be nice to know and be able to seek out the responsible party.

I take “no signs of foul play” to mean her head was not bashed it or she wasn’t obviously shot or choked to death. If she was poisoned it would not be a obvious sign of death until the autopsy is done.

Indeed, they are sometimes performed to help decide if there was a murder.

When my father died suddenly (he was in his early 40s), we were told by the ER doctor that an autopsy is required in New York state in cases where there isn’t a pre-existing condition.

And if her death is considered a suicide, then that would impact the insurance claim as well.

Without an autopsy for Michael Jackson, how else would we know whom to blame for the lethal OD?

There are LOTS of reasons to perform one, and not all of them are mere technicalities.

My guess is that your husband had a known condition, was elderly, and/or under a physician’s care when he died.

When the cause is unknown, sometimes it is important to find out what it was, in order to help those who are still living. Whitney was found dead in a bathtub. Did she OD on drugs? Have a heart attack? Did an aneurysm burst in her brain? Was she electrocuted in a freak accident? A lurking genetic condition? We’re all jumping to the drugs conclusion because of her history, but stranger things have happened–and if it’s a genetic problem, her daughter can benefit from the knowledge.

A real-life example: My sister died at age 27 very suddenly. She reported to a few people that she felt “strange” and “tired” for a week. Then, one day, she came home and sat down on the couch to watch TV while her fiance went to shower. When he came out of the shower, she was not breathing and had no pulse. He performed CPR (he has training) and called 911. She was taken to the hospital where she died after 2 hours of unsuccessful attempts to shock her heart back into normal rhythm. There was no evidence at all of foul play.

Now, what would be your first guess as to what killed her? Lots of people had ideas. The doctors thought hey, this is probably a previously unknown genetic arrhythmia like Brugada syndrome or long QT. A lot of her (jerk) co-workers were guessing it was caused by diet pill abuse because, while she had never been fat, in the year preceding her death, my sister became a fitness nut and had whittled her body fat percentage down from normal into the range of a more serious athlete.

Thank goodness our approach to these matters is not as careless as you suggest it should be. The doctors did not just shrug and say, “Huh, weird heart arrhythmia thing, maybe she’s a druggie, too bad she’s dead, case closed.” Because an autopsy was required, we found out that my sister had one coronary artery that was almost totally occluded. This was despite the fact that she had never been overweight, was incredibly fit and active, had cholesterol in the low-normal range, and was only 27. The autopsy also proved that she wasn’t abusing any substances at the time of her death. She did not have a heart attack; the pathologist thought that an arrhythmia happened because of the occluded artery.

This information turned out to be really important to our family because hey, she has three sisters who are still living. And the pathologist on the case, as well as a couple of cardiologists we consulted afterwards, think this is probably an indication of very strong genetic loading for coronary artery disease in my parents’ offspring. My sisters and I are all monitored much more closely for cardiovascular-related problems than other women in their 20s and 30s as a result of knowing (or at least having a pretty good idea about) what killed my sister.

Most insurances pays for suicides as long as the policy was in effect for a certain period of time prior to the suicide. I wonder if her recording label had one on her.

There is a legal reason.

California requires the coroner to inquire into cases such as Whitney’s death, see section 27491 of the California Government Code. The coroner can order an autopsy to determine the cause of death, and then may issue a death certificate.

I was just wondering. My husband was 44 when he died and it was sudden and a heart attack. No autopsy was performed. They just put myocardial infarction on the death certificate and that was that. I’m in Chicago.

I’m not saying she should not have had one, I was just wondering why. I guess with a celebrity it’s a bit different.

Here is the Peoria IL coroner’s A Family’s Guide which explains exactly when an autopsy is required.