Frequently Asked Questions
What is the process of death investigation?
After receiving the report of a death, an investigation will be completed by a Medicolegal Death Investigator (MDI). The Medicolegal Death Investigator’s job is to collect information for the Medical Examiner. The investigation may or may not require a scene investigation, depending on the circumstances of the case.
If certain requirements are met, the body will be taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an examination. Some individuals who are brought to the Medical Examiner’s Office will receive only an external examination and CT imaging. Other cases will require full autopsies to determine cause and manner of death. The decision of what type of examination to perform is at the discretion of the Medical Examiner on duty.
What is a Medical Examiner?
The Chief Medical Examiner and Deputy Medical Examiner are licensed physicians certified by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic, clinical and forensic pathology. Both doctors also serve as coroners for the county.
Do I need to visually identify my loved one?
If visual identification was not made by family or friends at the death scene, identification will be made by fingerprints, x-rays, dental records and/or photographic comparison. This is completed by the Medical Examiner on duty.
What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a surgical procedure consisting of a thorough external and internal examination of a deceased person in order to identify the cause and manner of death (how the death occurred: natural, accidental, homicide, suicide, undetermined). During the procedure, the body is opened in a manner that does not typically interfere with an open casket service.
What if I don’t want an autopsy?
Families may wish to forgo an autopsy due to religious, cultural or other reasons. If this is the case, please contact our office and a Medical Examiner can discuss options with you. Please keep in mind some autopsies are required by law, regardless of family’s wishes.
What if I can’t pay for an autopsy?
There is no charge for autopsies performed by the Medical Examiner’s Office. Fees are paid by tax dollars.
What happens to the body after the autopsy?
The legal next-of-kin should call the Medical Examiner’s Office as soon as they have chosen a funeral home. The office will work directly with the funeral home for transportation after the exam is completed.
Will the autopsy interfere with organ or tissue donation?
Only the next-of-kin can grant permission for postmortem tissue/organ donation. The deceased individual must meet certain criteria to be eligible for organ, tissue and/or whole-body donation. Additionally, deaths under the investigation of the Medical Examiner’s Office require the approval of the Medical Examiner for donation.
Donation is evaluated and approved on a case-by-case basis; however, circumstances of the death can prevent donation from occurring. Additional information on organ and tissue donation can be found at https://saving-sight.org/ or https://www.mwtn.org/.
What does it mean if the case is “pending?"
Pending status means the Medical Examiner’s Office is waiting for results from various tests taken at the autopsy, including toxicology tests. In this case a “preliminary” death certificate will be issued, which may be used for closing out bank accounts and most things that need to be done after the passing.
Where will my loved one’s belongings go and how do I get them back?
All items brought into the Medical Examiner’s Office are inventoried, stored and released to the funeral home along with the body after the exam has been completed. In some cases, belongings are released to law enforcement when classified as evidence.
When can I see my loved one again?
It is recommended that families contact the funeral home to set up a viewing after the autopsy has been completed.
How do I obtain a copy of a death certificate?
Death certificates may be ordered through the chosen funeral home. Another option is to order a copy of a death certificate from the state vital records office in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. The person obtaining a copy of the death certificate must be an interested party who can provide the necessary information for the decedent. There will be a fee for every copy of the certificate ordered from either the funeral home or the state vital records office. Death certificates are not available through the Medical Examiner’s Office.
How do I obtain a copy of an autopsy report?
Please complete the KORA Request Form.