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Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner

POSTMORTEM EXAMS: COMMON QUESTIONS & FACTS

WHAT LAW GIVES AUTHORITY TO A MEDICAL EXAMINER TO ORDER A POSTMORTEM EXAM?

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 at any time it is deemed necessary to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death.

WHO PAYS FOR A POSTMORTEM EXAM?

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 A POSTMORTEM EXAM

A complete forensic autopsy is a comprehensive external and internal examination of the body after death and is performed at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. 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.

In some cases, the forensic pathologist may determine that a complete forensic autopsy is not required. In these cases the forensic pathologist may only do an external exam or a partial autopsy.

WHEN WILL THIS BE DONE?

This is generally performed on the day following death. Sometimes the cause and manner of death can be determined shortly after the exam 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 OF THE FUNERAL HOME OF YOUR CHOICE

When the postmortem exam is complete we will notify the funeral home of your choosing. Funeral home personnel are familiar with procedures and will make all necessary arrangements.

REASONS A POSTMORTEM EXAM IS IMPORTANT

A postmortem exam is ordered by the medical examiner to determine or confirm the cause and manner of death. However, there are other reasons a postmortem exam is important, such as:

  • Many physicians will request copies of the 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 report 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 REPORT?

A copy of the report can be requested from the Office of the Medical Examiner at (269) 337-6173 or by sending an email to pathology@med.wmich.edu.

It is important to note that the report is not sent automatically to the family or physician but must be requested.




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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