Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner
AUTOPSIES: COMMON QUESTIONS & FACTS
WHAT LAW GIVES AUTHORITY TO A MEDICAL EXAMINER TO ORDER AN AUTOPSY?
The Michigan County Medical Examiner Law, Act 181, P.A. 1953, and the Michigan Public
Health Code, Act 368, P.A. 1978, as amended, mandates that certain types of death be referred to the
medical examiner for investigation. These deaths include sudden and unexpected deaths, accidental
deaths, and violent deaths. The medical examiner has the authority under these Acts to order an
autopsy at any time it is deemed necessary to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death.
WHO PAYS FOR THIS AUTOPSY?
When an autopsy is ordered by the medical examiner, it is paid for by Kalamazoo County, and there is
no charge to the family.
WHAT IS AN AUTOPSY?
A complete forensic autopsy is a comprehensive external and internal examination of the body after
death and is performed at Sparrow Health Systems in Lansing. Kalamazoo County residents are
fortunate to have access to forensic pathologists who have completed advanced training in the
determination of cause and manner of death.
The forensic pathologist/medical examiner will order any test, additional studies, and/or consultation
with specialists anywhere in the world if necessary to assist in the determination of cause and manner
WHEN WILL THIS AUTOPSY BE DONE?
The autopsy is generally performed on the day following death. Generally the cause and manner of
death can be determined shortly after the autopsy is done, however, there are cases in which additional
testing is required and the cause and manner of death may remain pending until a final determination is
made. The final report usually takes 60 to 90 days to prepare due to detailed studies performed.
NOTIFY THE MEDICAL EXAMINER OR THE FUNERAL HOME OF YOUR CHOICE
Please be aware that you will be asked for the name of a funeral home so their personnel can be
notified when the autopsy has been completed. Funeral home personnel are familiar with procedures
and will make all necessary arrangements.
REASONS AN AUTOPSY IS IMPORTANT
An autopsy is ordered by the medical examiner to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death.
However, there are other reasons an autopsy is important, such as:
- Many physicians will request copies of the autopsy report as there has been increasing awareness that identifying inherited or familial diseases may lead to early diagnosis and treatment of other family members.
- The autopsy provides crucial evidence to law enforcement officials, insurance companies, and others. This information is important for insurance claims, work-related compensation or other death benefits.
- Finding a specific cause of death may ease the stress of the unknown.
- Other tests, such as toxicology for drugs and alcohol are done.
- Finding that the diagnosis and treatment was appropriate may be of comfort to family members.
HOW CAN I GET A COPY OF THE AUTOPSY REPORT?
A copy of the autopsy report can be requested from the Office of the Medical Examiner at (269)373-5190. There may be a small charge for copies of records which includes the Investigator's report and
narratives, the autopsy report and any laboratory results connected to the case.
It is important to note that the autopsy report is not sent automatically to the family or physician but
must be requested.
WILL THE DOCTOR RECEIVE A COPY?
Autopsy reports are not forwarded automatically to the physician. You may want to review the autopsy
report with your physician and either you or the physician should call to make arrangements to have the
autopsy report forwarded. If you do not have a physician, the Medical Examiner will review it with you.
There is no fee when the report is forwarded to the physician.
WHAT MEDICAL RECORDS WILL I RECEIVE WHEN I REQUEST THE REPORT?
The complete record regarding the death of your loved one consists of the Medical Examiners Case
Report (which contains information regarding the medical examiner's investigation; including history of
the incident, cause and manner of death, and other pertinent information regarding the death) and the
autopsy report which is compiled after examination of the body, including disease processes found,
toxicology, any injuries found, etc.
WHAT RECORDS WILL MY INSURANCE COMPANY NEED?
The insurance company may accept a death certificate as proof of death, however, when a death is
investigated by a medical examiner, the insurance company may request an autopsy report. You can
refer the insurance company to this office. Most insurance companies are aware that the autopsy and
final report may take from three to four months to complete.