How to obtain autopsy reports & results

Written by barb nefer
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How to obtain autopsy reports & results
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

An autopsy is an examination that takes place after a person's death to find the cause and any other contributing factors. The procedure is typically performed by a medical doctor who specialises in pathology. When there is a question on the manner of a person's death, getting a copy of the autopsy report and results can give family members closure. As long as you know the place of the person's death, requesting the report is a simple process.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Identify the county in which the autopsy was performed and whether the death fell under the jurisdiction of the Pathologist there. Normally this will be the case when the death was an accident, suicide or homicide rather than an obviously natural death.

  2. 2

    Call the Pathologist's office and ask for instructions on how to request the autopsy report and results. Normally you will need to file a written request, although some offices will accept requests via e-mail. Always use the preferred means of contact so you won't have to resubmit your initial query.

  3. 3

    When you get a response with instructions, submit your request for the autopsy report and results in the manner required. Usually, you need to send the name of the deceased person and their exact date of death, as well as your own name and postal or e-mail address.

  4. 4

    When you receive a response to your request, follow the appropriate instructions. If the autopsy report and results are available, the Pathologist's office will let you know whether you need to submit a fee and how long it should take to send you the requested information.

  5. 5

    If you do not receive a response within eight weeks, call or send a follow-up letter or e-mail to the Pathologist's office. You may want to check up sooner, but these offices are often busy and handle requests in the order they are received. Eight weeks is usually a reasonable amount of time.

Tips and warnings

  • Autopsy results and reports will not be given out until the case file is complete. If the death was suspicious or the autopsy report contains sensitive material that could jeopardise a criminal investigation, there will be a delay before it is released to the public. You will have to wait until the investigation is closed and the file is complete before receiving your copy.

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