• The man was positive for COVID-19
  • An autopsy revealed evidence of COVID-related illnesses 
  • It showed his death was "natural" and not "violent"

A construction worker who fell from a ladder earlier this year actually died due to COVID-19, doctors said in a report.

In the report published in the Journal of Forensic Pathology, doctors discussed the case of a 51-year-old unnamed man in Croatia who apparently died after a fall from a 10-foot ladder at his workplace. He suffered lacerations, minor bruises and abrasions from the fall and was declared dead at the scene, but it was later found that he was actually positive for COVID-19.

An autopsy was conducted to find whether his death was really caused by the accident and doctors found evidence of damages to the man's organs including his heart and lungs, which were said to be "heavy" and had "markedly reduced air content," the report stated.

Based on the autopsy results, they concluded that the man suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which the authors described as a "very common feature of this disease [COVID-19]."

Doctors said the results of the autopsy ruled out a "violent death" because there were no "significant traumatic findings" and it instead pointed to COVID-19 as the man's cause of death.

"(A)ll the evidence collected unequivocally led to the conclusion that COVID-19 was responsible for the lethal outcome of the presented patient," the authors wrote in the new report, noting that in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, ARDS should be listed as the immediate cause of death and COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death.

Doctors found that the man had been complaining of fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, cough and chest discomfort, all symptoms related to COVID-19, in the week before he died. But he did not seek medical attention and continued to work. He also reportedly had a history of smoking and type-2 diabetes.

The authors described the case as "interesting" and called on health workers to be vigilant even when it comes to deaths that appear to be "violent" in nature. In some cases, deaths that appear natural turn out to be violent deaths, but the researchers found the opposite here.

"SARS-CoV-2 can be hidden as the natural cause of death," the authors wrote, noting how full autopsies help clarify certain cases that seem unclear.

Pictured: Representative image of a ladder. Helena Cuerva/Pixabay