Questions & Answers
Q. What is an autopsy?
A. An autopsy is the postmortem (after death) examination of a body, including the internal organs and structures after dissection, so as to determine the cause of death or the nature of pathological changes.
Q. What cases fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner and must be reported to the Medical Examiner’s Office?
A. This is determined by Florida State Statute, Chapter 406.11, and Florida Administrative Code 11G-2. This includes all deaths due to trauma (even if admitted to a hospital) whether that trauma is due to an accident, criminal violence, or suicide. It includes deaths that occur suddenly, when in apparent good health, or when the decedent is not under the care of a physician (or the physician is out of state and does not have a Florida license to sign the death certificate). It includes when the death occurred in prison, jail, or in police custody. Deaths that appear suspicious or under unusual circumstances also fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner’s Office, as does threats to public health, or deaths associated with employment.
Q. Will all cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner be autopsied?
A. No, not all cases are autopsied. It is up to the discretion of a Medical Examiner and depends upon the type of case and circumstances of the case. Cases associated with criminal violence or recent traumas are almost always mandated for a complete autopsy.
Q. How can we get a copy of an autopsy report?
A. Send a written request by mail, fax, or email to:
Mail - District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office, 2350 E. Michigan St., Orlando, FL 32806
Fax - (407) 836-9450
Email - Medical.Examiner@ocfl.net (preferred method of delivery)
Click here for a Request for Autopsy Report form.
Request should include the name of the deceased, date of death, and the email or mailing address of where to send the report once it is complete. There is no charge to the family for a copy of the requested autopsy report. All other requestors may be charged depending on the amount of work required to complete the request and the volume of report(s) requested.
Please Note: If the case is a homicide or still under criminal active investigation, a report cannot be forwarded without permission from the investigating officer or the State Attorney's Office.
Q. How do I obtain a Death Certificate?
A. The Medical Examiner’s Office cannot issue death certificates. A certified copy of the death certificate must be obtained from the Office of Vital Statistics or the funeral home handling the arrangements.
Orange County Vital Statistics: (407) 836-7128
807 West Church St., Orlando, FL 32805
Osceola County Vital Statistics: (407) 343-2009
1875 Boggy Creek Rd., Kissimmee, FL 34744
Q. What does it mean when a case is ‘pending’?
A. Death certificates will state ‘pending’ when laboratory studies or further investigations are needed to determine the cause and/or manner of death. While a time frame cannot be established on when this type of case will be un-pended, each is handled independently. Some cases can take twelve weeks to unpend. However, this does not prevent the body from being released within 24 to 48 hours of the examination.
Q. How long does a body remain at the Medical Examiner's facility?
A. This depends upon the time it takes to examine a body (or do an autopsy) and take physical evidence. Even if a cause and manner of death is pending, most bodies are able to be released within 24 hours to 48 hours of examination to the funeral home chosen by the family.
Q. How do I claim a body?
A. The legal next of kin should contact a funeral home or crematorium, make final arrangements, and sign a written release giving the Medical Examiner’s Office permission to release the body.
Q. Do I need to identify my loved ones at the morgue?
A. In most circumstances, you do not need to identify someone at the morgue. The Medical Examiner’s Office tries to have identifications done at the scene of death and rarely require family and friends at the morgue. All bodies are fingerprinted upon arrival and photographs are taken. Visual identifications are made at the morgue only if needed and at our request. For more information, call the investigative staff at (407) 836-9499.
Q. Do you need permission of the next of kin to perform an autopsy?
A. By State law, the Medical Examiner is not required to receive permission from next of kin for an autopsy that falls under the medical examiner’s jurisdiction. Religious objections to an autopsy are handled with consultation on a case by case basis.
Q. What happens to personal property brought in with a body?
A. If personal effects are transported with a body, they are inventoried and turned over to the funeral home for return to the family. In the cases of homicides, all the personal effects are turned over to law enforcement as evidence, unless law enforcement instructs our office to release a specific item to the family. If the next of kin is not located, the personal property will be handled as follows:
- Any cash will be turned over to the county government where the death occurred for proper disposition.
- Any property that has negligible or no reasonably discernable monetary value will be retained for one year and then be destroyed after documenting due diligence in trying to locate next of kin.
- Any property that has a monetary value will be retained for one year and then turned over to the county government where the death occurred for proper disposition.
Q. Who gives permission for organ donation?
A. Only the legal next of kin may grant permission for organ or tissue donation. Permission must requested by the organ or tissue procurement agency before the Medical Examiner can accept jurisdiction. The Medical Examiner’s Office will then determine if donation may proceed without compromising the duties of the medical examiner. In rare cases, a medical examiner’s objection may be invoked to protect evidence. The policy of the office is pro-donation and we make every effort not to make an objection to organ or tissue donation against the wishes of the next of kin.
Q. Who reports the death to the Medical Examiner’s Office?
A. Death reports to the Medical Examiner’s Office should only taken from law enforcement, funeral homes, or medical facilities which would include hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice. If a death occurs at home, law enforcement should be contacted who then in turn notifies the Medical Examiner’s Office. The number for law enforcement, funeral homes, and medical facilities to report a death is (407) 836-9499 twenty-four hours a day.