In many cases, when a person dies an autopsy report is ordered and completed by the medical examiner. An autopsy report may be ordered to rule out foul play or simply to determine the exact cause of death. Whether you have the right to view an autopsy report will depend in what state the death occurred and what your relationship is to the deceased. Some states view autopsy reports as public records while others consider them to be akin to a medical record and therefore subject to doctor-patient confidentiality.
Research the law in the state where the death occurred to determine whether autopsy reports are considered public record. A good place to start is with the medical examiner's office or website.
Contact the medical examiner's office to ascertain what form is required to request a copy of the autopsy report. In most cases, the request will need to be in writing and may need to be made on a county form.
Provide proof of your next-of-kin status if the records are confidential. Even if the records are not considered public records, the next of kin is entitled to a copy of an autopsy report. A marriage certificate or birth certificate along with a copy of a government-issued identification should suffice.
Include any copy or document preparation fees with your request. Most public record request laws allow the office providing the records to charge a fee for copying the records. Fees will vary by jurisdiction so make sure to ask ahead of time.
- Autopsy reports may take weeks or months before they are available to either the next of kin or the public. If the death is the subject of an ongoing investigation the report will not be released until the investigation is concluded.