An autopsy is a post-mortem medical procedure that is performed by a qualified pathologist after the death of a person. The majority of autopsies take between two and four hours and will not prevent the body from being displayed at the funeral. Autopsy information can be useful to next of kin in a variety of ways, including providing closure, assisting with legal matters, providing insight into genetic conditions that may affect other family members, and helping to explain an unexpected death. Who can obtain autopsy reports and results varies from state to state because of differences in privacy laws.
Part 1 Requesting the Autopsy Report
1. Understand what an autopsy is intended to accomplish. An autopsy is a medical examination of a deceased person’s body that is performed by a pathologist who has received specialised training. During the autopsy, the pathologist creates a written record of his or her findings, which includes microscopic and laboratory examinations. Following that, copies of these reports can be requested by next of kin or other authorised individuals. There are two types of autopsies: surgical and nonsurgical.
The autopsy performed at the hospital: A post-mortem examination, also known as a necropsy, is one of the most common types of examination. Pathologists use surgical techniques to perform an external and internal examination of the deceased during hospital autopsies. Autopsies are performed in hospitals to assist in answering specific questions about the cause of death and identifying diseases or problems that may have contributed to the patient’s death.
An autopsy of this type determines the cause and manner of death of a person, and it is performed by a medical professional (for example, natural, accident, suicide, homicide). It is also necessary to perform forensic autopsies to determine whether or not a person was murdered, and to determine the time of death and/or the cause of death. The evidence gathered from a person’s body during a forensic autopsy may be used in a criminal trial to prove or disprove the guilt or innocence of the person who was examined.
2. Find out what your state’s policy is on autopsy results. Autopsy policies differ from one state to the next, and from one country to the next. However, in most cases, final autopsy reports are available 30 to 45 days after the autopsy has taken place, on average. It may take up to 90 days for the final autopsy results to be completed and made available in complicated cases.
You can find a comprehensive chart of autopsy policies by state by visiting this page. Some states restrict access to autopsy reports to immediate family members or individuals who have a legitimate interest in knowing the results of the autopsy. Although autopsy reports are generally available to the public in several states, the records can be withheld in certain circumstances.
3. In writing, request a copy of the autopsy report. The majority of states require that you submit a written request for the autopsy report. Your state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and/or coroner’s office website will provide you with more information about the request, including the address to send the request to as well as the form to fill out to submit the request.
When submitting a written request, you will typically be required to include the following information: your full name, your address, your telephone number, your relationship to the deceased, their date of death, and the county in which the death occurred.
It is public record in some states, such as Iowa and Maryland, that a deceased person’s cause and manner of death were discovered and reported to authorities. A medical record is maintained for the remainder of the information contained within the autopsy report, which is treated as confidential. Individuals who have a legitimate reason to request a detailed autopsy report, such as treating physicians, law enforcement officers who are investigating the death, and county attorneys, can write to the Department of Justice.
Part 2 Retrieving the Autopsy Report
1. See the autopsy in person if you can. In some states, such as Maryland, you can read and review the autopsy report in person by making an appointment with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which is completely free of charge. You will not be able to copy the autopsy or take it with you unless you pay for a duplicate copy.
More information can be found on the website of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in your state, if applicable.
The majority of the information you require to request an autopsy report will be available from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The coroner’s and medical examiner’s offices are located in the majority of large cities and counties.
2. If necessary, make a payment for the report. The majority of autopsy reports are provided free of charge to the next of kin and other legitimate individuals who have requested them. Some states, such as Maryland and Texas, do charge a fee for a fully completed and detailed autopsy report, though this is not common.
It is possible that the fee will change. For example, in Texas, the fee for an autopsy is $0.10 per page and in Maryland, the fee for an autopsy is $30 for family members only.
3. You will receive the report in the mail. The time it takes to process your written request will vary from state to state. The autopsy report, on the other hand, will be sent to you via regular mail. Remember to be patient, as it may take some time for this to be delivered.
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