While it is an unwise decision to have any plastic surgery by a "backstreet surgeon," it still happens. If your relative decided to have cheap plastic surgery this way, and then died because of the infection, you may or may not have a wrongful death case. Here is why.
The Deceased Was Participating in Shady Business
To sue for wrongful death, the deceased has to have been an innocent victim. Because he or she was participating in shady business, he/she was not entirely guiltless or blameless. However, he or she did act on the belief that the shady doings of the backstreet surgeon would not be fatal; hence, the wrongful death claim.
The Backstreet Surgeon Is a Legitimate Surgeon
Sometimes you do find surgeons performing somewhat unethical procedures in places other than a sterile hospital room. If the surgeon your family member visited really is a licensed surgeon, you may have a leg to stand on yet. You can sue this surgeon so that his/her license is removed, and that he/she serves some jail time to protect others from the same fate.
Compensation for a wrongful death may go either way, given the particulars of the case. The judge would have to decide if you are entitled to these funds, despite the circumstances. You should be prepared for that possibility as well as any legal fees you incur for the wrongful death accident lawyers you hire.
Your Relative Was Your Main Source of Household Income
Scary as it sounds, some people choose the dangerous but cheap plastic surgery so that they can afford other things you and any children want or need. When the relative in question was your spouse and your main source of income, you may be able to claim compensation for enough months to keep you until you can secure a job yourself. It would be somewhat atypical for the judge to make this ruling. However, financial hardship because of someone else's poor decision is usually the reason why the ruling turns in your favor.
The Gray Areas
The biggest problem with a case like this is the number of gray areas. Clearly, something awful happened to your relative/spouse. Yet, it happened because he or she made a bad decision and the other party in question was doing something illegal and/or unethical. You could sue, but the gray areas are exactly what complicate your case, and may cause you to come out of it with nothing.