😃😥😊 This article was co-authored by Chris M. Matsko, MD. Dr. Chris M. Matsko is a retired physician based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With over 25 years of medical research experience, Dr. Matsko was awarded the Pittsburgh Cornell University Leadership Award for Excellence. He holds a BS in Nutritional Science from Cornell University and an MD from the Temple University School of Medicine in 2007. Dr. Matsko earned a Research Writing Certification from the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) in 2016 and a Medical Writing & Editing Certification from the University of Chicago in 2017.
This article has been viewed 293,639 times.
😃😥😊 An autopsy is a post mortem medical procedure performed by a qualified pathologist. Most autopsies take two to four hours and will not interfere with having the body on view at the funeral. Autopsy information can be important to next of kin to offer closure, to aid in legal matters, to offer insight on genetic conditions that might affect other family members, or to help explain an unexpected death. Different states have varying privacy laws on who can obtain autopsy reports and results.
Part 1Part 1 of 2:Requesting the Autopsy Report
- 1Understand the purpose of an autopsy. An autopsy is an examination of the body of a deceased person, carried out by a qualified pathologist. The pathologist creates a written record of the autopsy findings, including the microscopic and laboratory tests. Next of kin or other authorized individuals can then request copies of these reports. There are two types of autopsies:XResearch source
- The hospital autopsy: This type is often referred to as a post-mortem exam or necropsy. During hospital autopsies, the pathologist use surgical techniques to perform an external and internal examination on the deceased. Hospital autopsies are performed to help answer specific questions about the cause of death and identify diseases or problems related to the patient’s death.
- The forensic autopsy: This type determines the person’s cause of death, as well as the manner of death (for example, natural, accident, suicide, homicide). Forensic autopsies are also performed to determine the identity of the deceased, as well as the time of death and/or the fatal injury. The evidence collected from the body during a forensic autopsy may be used in a criminal case to prove or disprove a person’s guilt or innocence.
- 2Check your state’s policy on autopsy results. Autopsy policies vary from state to state, and country to country. However, in general, most final autopsy reports are available 30 to 45 days after the autopsy. Complex cases may take up to 90 days before the final autopsy results are complete and available.XResearch source
- A comprehensive chart of the autopsy policy by state is available here. Some states limit autopsy reports to next of kin or individuals who have a legitimate interest in the report. Several states make autopsy reports public records, though in certain circumstances, the records can be withheld.XResearch source
- 3Write a request for the autopsy report. Most states require a written request for the autopsy report. The details on the request, as well as the address for the request and the request form, can be found on the website of your state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and/or coroner's office.
- In most written requests, you will need to include 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.
- In some states, such as Iowa and Maryland, the cause and manner of death of the deceased becomes part of the public record. The remainder of the information contained within the autopsy report is confidential and considered a medical record. Next of kin can write a request for the detailed autopsy report, as well as other legitimate individuals such as treating physicians, law enforcement investigating the death, and county attorneys.XResearch source
Part 2Part 2 of 2:Retrieving the Autopsy Report
- 1View the autopsy in person. In some states, for example Maryland, you can read and review the autopsy report in person by appointment at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, free of charge. However, you cannot copy the autopsy or take it with you without paying for a copy.
- Check the website of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in your state for more information.
- The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will have most of the information that you need to request an autopsy report. Most large cities and counties have a coroner's and medical examiner's office
- 2Pay for the report, if necessary. Most autopsy reports are provided at no charge to the next of kin and other legitimate individuals. However, some states, like Maryland and Texas, require a fee for a completed, detailed autopsy report.
- The fee may vary. For example, the fee for an autopsy in Texas is $0.10 per a pageXResearch source, and the fee for the autopsy in Maryland is $30 for family members.
- 3Receive the report by mail. Processing of your written request will vary state by state. However, you will receive the autopsy report via regular mail. Remember to be patient as this might take some time to receive.
Expert Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article?Unlock expert answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionWhat are the legal fees in Milwaukee, WI to see an autopsy report?Daniel Wozniczka, MD, MPHDr. Wozniczka is an Internal Medicine Physician, who is focused on the intersection of medicine, economics, and policy. He has global healthcare experience in Sub Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. He serves currently as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Public Health Service and a Medical Officer for the Epidemic Intelligence Service in the CDC. He completed his MD at Jagiellonian University in 2014, and also holds an MBA and Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Internal Medicine PhysicianInternal Medicine PhysicianExpert Answer
About This Article
Autopsy reports can help you find closure and give you insight into legal matters, especially if the person’s death was unexpected. Autopsy policies vary from state to state, however, most final autopsy reports become available 30-45 days after the autopsy. To obtain one, you’ll need to send in an autopsy request form to the coroner’s office, which can usually be found on your state’s medical examiner website. In most states, autopsy reports are provided at no charge, but in some areas, you may need to pay a fee for the report. Once your request is approved, you’ll receive the report by mail. To learn more about the difference between a hospital autopsy and a forensic autopsy, read on!