Iraq War Veteran Suit Tepezza Claims Firm News search
Home > Ohio Blog > Getting an Autopsy: The Coroner’s Requirements and Private Autopsies
an empty hallway in a hospital | Burg Simpson

Getting an Autopsy: The Coroner’s Requirements and Private Autopsies

May 8, 2023 | 6 min read

Getting an autopsy may be necessary for numerous reasons. After the passing of a loved one, you and your family may have a variety of pressing questions. Perhaps you seek peace of mind, or maybe you suspect that something went wrong. 

Unfortunately, the autopsy process can be a complicated, confusing experience without the help and guidance of an experienced attorney.

If you believe that negligence or wrongdoing may have played a role in your loved one’s death, and are looking to obtain an autopsy for a deceased family member, it is in your best interest to consult a personal injury lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney can provide you with assistance with an autopsy and all other aspects of your claim.

At Burg Simpson Law Firm, we understand the critical role of autopsy records in a personal injury claim in Ohio. For a FREE and confidential case evaluation, call our Cincinnati office at 513-852-5600 today.

What is an Autopsy?

An autopsy is a medical examination of the body that occurs after death. Autopsies may be performed for many reasons, such as:

  • When the doctor or next of kin requests an autopsy
  • When a physician does not know the cause of death for the death certificate
  • When a public health concern, such as an infectious disease outbreak, dictates
  • When a suspicious or unexpected death occurs

In addition to a medical examination, other testing can include neuropathology, toxicology, and microbiology testing. Once all testing has been performed, the medical examiner will issue a final cause and manner of death on the death certificate.

Is an Autopsy Always Required After a Death?

Autopsies are not always required after a death. Coroners/Medical Examiners are employed by the government. In most states, state laws and regulations specify when the Coroner or Medical Examiner’s officer must perform an autopsy and, generally, Coroners and Medical Examiners do not have the authority to perform an autopsy unless provided for specifically by state law. Usually, those laws restrict the Coroner’s or Medical Examiner’s office to performing autopsies only when a person dies in a suspicious or unusual manner—that is, a manner that indicates that a crime may have occurred. Therefore, the Coroner or Medical Examiner will generally decline to do an autopsy if it appears that no crime was involved with the death.

Just because a crime was not committed, however, does not necessarily mean that someone died of “natural causes.” Sometimes death can be caused by the mistakes of medical professionals or exposure to toxic substances.

When is an Autopsy Required by Law?

In Ohio, a coroner is obligated to carry out an autopsy in specific cases as outlined in Ohio Revised Code 313.121, including the unexpected death of a child under 2 years old who appeared to be in good health. If the autopsy goes against the deceased person’s religious beliefs, it may be postponed for 48 hours if deemed a compelling public necessity by the coroner or not performed at all. To stop the autopsy, a relative or friend must file a legal action.

Under Ohio law, an autopsy is mandatory if it is essential for a law enforcement investigation of a homicide or suspected homicide or any other criminal investigation, or if it is necessary to determine the cause of death to protect public health from an immediate and severe danger.

Who Can Request an Autopsy?

In Ohio, autopsies can be requested by law enforcement officials as part of a homicide or suspected homicide investigation, or any other criminal investigation, or by medical examiners to establish the cause of death for the purpose of protecting against an immediate and substantial threat to public health.

Family members or friends cannot request an autopsy on their own. However, the family or friends of the deceased can request a private autopsy to be performed by a pathologist at their own expense.

Requesting Private Autopsies

Some hospitals, especially teaching hospitals, provide autopsy services. Therefore, if you are interested in obtaining an autopsy and the Coroner has declined to provide one, the best place to start is to call your local teaching university’s hospital to see if they offer the service or can refer you to someone who can. The person who performs the autopsy at these hospitals is a doctor specialized in pathology (usually clinical or forensic pathology). Therefore, when you call, it may help to ask for the pathology department. You can also try locating private autopsy services by searching the internet.

Keep in mind that, although some teaching hospitals may perform autopsies free of charge, the majority of hospitals do charge. If the expense of an autopsy is a concern, be sure to ask for the cost before scheduling.

When to Request an Autopsy

If you suspect that your loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligence and you have decided that you want to have an autopsy performed, request one as soon as possible. The passage of time can affect autopsy results. Additionally, most pathologists prefer conducting the autopsy prior to embalming. Thus the sooner the autopsy is requested, the better.

What to Expect When Seeking Autopsies for Loved Ones

Usually, the transportation of your loved one’s body will be arranged by the place performing the autopsy. The autopsy itself usually lasts between 2 to 4 hours. Therefore, an autopsy can generally be performed without delaying funeral service plans.

An autopsy is a medical examination of a deceased person; however, that examination also includes an examination of the deceased person’s internal organs as well as laboratory testing of body fluids and tissues. Accordingly, the deceased’s body is operated on during an autopsy. 

Usually, one can still have an open-casket funeral after an autopsy; however, this largely depends on the circumstances surrounding the death.

Although the autopsy itself usually takes only a few hours, it may take a few weeks for the final autopsy report to become available. This is because it can take some time for the laboratory tests to be returned. The final autopsy report will include a detailed description of the pathologist’s examination and his or her findings, including the probable cause or mechanism of death.

What To Do if You Suspect Negligence Caused Your Loved One’s Death

If you suspect your loved one was the victim of negligence in Ohio, you should speak with a Cincinnati personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

An attorney can help in a number of ways, including:

  • Investigate the details of the incident
  • Obtain medical records
  • In the event of a death, help obtaining an autopsy if necessary
  • Work with medical experts to support your claim
  • Negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Seek the maximum compensation to which you may be entitled under Ohio law
  • Take your case to court if a fair settlement cannot be negotiated

If you lost a loved one due to the reckless or careless actions of someone else, your first step toward justice begins with a FREE and confidential consultation with an injury attorney at Burg Simpson Law Firm. During this important initial meeting we will listen to your story and assess the merits of your claim. We will explain your rights and options and answer your questions.

However, it is important to act quickly. Personal injury claims in Ohio – including wrongful death –  are subject to a time limit known as the statute of limitations. Under Ohio Revised Code § 2305.10, you only have 2 years after an injury or death occurs in which to seek damages. Personal injury claims can be extremely complex and two years can go by very quickly. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can begin investigating and building your case.

Call Now for Help Getting an Autopsy in Ohio

The knowledgeable team at Burg Simpson understands the hardships faced by families after the loss of a loved one. During your time of grieving, it can be extremely difficult to deal with complex matters like obtaining an autopsy and preparing a legal claim. Don’t face your loss alone. Our attorneys are committed to easing the burdens of our clients and handling every aspect of their legal concerns.

Burg Simpson is primarily focused on representing individuals and families in personal injury and wrongful death claims. We have achieved more than $2 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients, and we will fight aggressively to obtain a favorable result on your behalf.

We know that every case is unique. We take time to thoroughly investigate the facts in each case and develop customized legal strategies to obtain justice and maximize recoveries for our clients. Contact Burg Simpson for a FREE and confidential case evaluation. Our personal injury lawyers are based in Cincinnati and serve clients throughout Ohio.