Firm-Wide blog

Asking for an Autopsy: When They Are Done and What You Can Do

By Burg Simpson
July 15, 2020
4 min read

If you are considering having an autopsy performed on a loved one who has passed, you may not know how that process works or what you need to do. In this article, we hope to provide you with information that will help you understand autopsies generally and how to request one.

Different “Types” of Autopsies      

In order to understand the autopsy process, you must understand that there are two types of autopsies: forensic and clinical. Forensic autopsies are those mandated by law and are generally performed by government employees called Coroners or Medical Examiners. 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.

Clinical autopsies are performed by medical facilities in order to conduct research, identify missed diagnoses, and provide overall quality assurance for medical care and treatments. The person who performs the autopsy is a specialized doctor called a pathologist. Not all medical facilities perform autopsies, however.

Asking for an Autopsy

Generally, family members are not consulted when determining whether to conduct a forensic autopsy. This is because, in most states, all deaths that may fall under the coroner’s authority are reported to the coroner, who then decides whether an autopsy will be performed.  If, however, your loved one does not qualify for a forensic autopsy, there are other options.

If your loved one passed in a medical facility, you can ask the facility whether it performs autopsies and, if so, if it would perform one on your loved one. Keep in mind, even if the facility does perform autopsies, it may refuse to do one. Also, the facility may charge a fee to perform an autopsy. If they do, be sure to inquire as to the amount beforehand as insurance generally will not cover autopsy fees.

If your loved one is not eligible for a forensic autopsy or a clinical autopsy at the facility, you do have one final option: a private autopsy. A private autopsy is a clinical autopsy performed by an outside medical facility for a fee, which can be between $3,000 – $7,000. Again, insurance generally will not cover the cost of an autopsy.

Finding a Private Autopsy Provider

Generally, the best way to find a private autopsy provider is by searching the internet. To find local providers, we suggest using the name of your town or city with “private autopsy” as your search terms. Many universities with a medical school provide private autopsies through their department of pathology. Additionally, there are businesses that perform private autopsies. As with any medical provider, however, be sure to check out the provider’s credentials and background.


Once a person dies, their body begins to change chemically, which can effect certain tests performed during autopsy. For this reason, it is important that if you are going to seek an autopsy, you have it done sooner rather than later.

What To Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice Caused Your Loved One’s Death

If you suspect that your loved one died as a result of medical malpractice, contact one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Burg Simpson’s Cincinnati office today. Our experienced trial attorneys are prepared to seek justice on your loved one’s behalf. Call Burg Simpson’s Cincinnati medical malpractice lawyers at 513-852-5600 or fill out our free case evaluation form now to discuss your case with us.


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