For a fee, the Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an independent inquiry into a death in which family members want to know the cause. A cost estimate for independent inquiry services will be given at the time of request.
Independent inquiry services that may be provided for a fee upon request include autopsy, consultation, and forensic pathology.
Autopsy, or postmortem examination, is a medical examination of a dead body, including the internal organs, to determine the cause of death. A doctor trained in forensic pathology performs an autopsy.
Consent & Consultation
A discreet and timely independent autopsy (full or partial) begins with written consent by the legal next of kin, such as a husband or wife, adult son or daughter, parent, adult brother or sister, or guardian (in that order of priority). The Medical Examiner makes the final determination whether to proceed with an autopsy.
Once the kin and pathologist agree upon an autopsy, staff will consult with involved parties as needed, such as other family members, private physicians, funeral directors, and attorneys. Performance of an autopsy by our skilled physicians will not interfere with plans for a traditional funeral, including viewing of the deceased, as physical appearance will not be altered.
There are many reasons for obtaining an independent autopsy. Even when not required by law, an autopsy can answer many of the family’s questions about the life and death of their loved one. It may determine the nature of an illness, reveal genetic defects, and possibly uncover the cause of death.
The purpose of the autopsy is to learn and document disease processes and determine the cause of death.
Forensic pathologists are available to perform autopsies seven-days-a-week including holidays. The autopsy generally takes about two to three hours to perform and will not interfere with funeral arrangements. After the procedure, staff is available to answer questions and provide assistance.
Full or Partial Autopsy
Although many diseases affect multiple organs and tissues, an autopsy can be restricted to a certain portion of the body. Depending upon the circumstances of death, the pathologist may be able to satisfy the needs of the family by performing a partial autopsy. For example, death due to suspected Alzheimer’s disease would require a partial autopsy since only the brain would need to be examined to confirm a diagnosis.
The autopsy consultation is designed to meet the needs of families who have questions or issues concerning the illness or disease process of their loved ones. Despite the accuracy of today’s modern diagnostic medical procedures, autopsies have revealed unexpected major disease in more than 20 percent of cases. This information can prove vital to the family of the deceased, especially if the disease has hereditary implications. Often, an autopsy helps physicians learn more about a particular disease process, so they can treat other family members with the same condition.
In addition, having an understanding of the circumstances surrounding a loved one’s death can provide essential closure for those who are grieving.
Forensic Pathology Services
Forensic medicine is a specialized area of medical practice which involves both medicine and the law. Forensic medicine uses medical and paramedical specialties, as well as various dental, psychological, biological, toxicological, and mechanical techniques, to investigate the causes of death, injury, or disease.