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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 of death.

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.




Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services is committed to providing equitable, culturally competent care to all individuals served, regardless of race, age, sex, color, national origin, religion, height, weight, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Links to external sites do not constitute endorsements by Kalamazoo County.

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