Even the word “autopsy” brings many questions and misconceptions to mind. The Coroner’s staff endeavors to provide accurate and reassuring information on all aspects of an autopsy. The body of the decedent is treated with respect at all times. Every autopsy is performed by a caring medical doctor in a professional manner.. The Coroner or Deputy Coroner is present during the autopsy.
When a death is sudden or unexpected, an autopsy is sometimes needed to establish the cause and manner of death. If a family has concerns about an autopsy, they are encouraged to inform the Coroner or Deputy Coroner immediately. The Coroner’s staff will discuss all concerns with the family, and then determine whether or not an autopsy is needed. Families are encouraged to ask any questions both before and after an autopsy. All of their questions will be answered as fully as possible.
If the Coroner is able to establish the cause and manner of death, an autopsy is not needed.
There are times when a family wishes an autopsy to be done for their peace of mind or medical information. The family is free to arrange and pay for such an autopsy. Upon request, the Coroner’s staff will provide the family with a list of pathologists.
If the Coroner determines that an autopsy is needed, he will discuss the reasons with the family or legal representative before the autopsy is performed. The County pays for the costs of the autopsy and there is no charge to the family or estate. There are rare instances when the family cannot be located in a reasonable time period and the autopsy may need to be done even though they have not had the opportunity to discuss this with the Coroner’s staff.
If the family or legal representative objects to an autopsy, the Coroner will work with them to come to a mutually-agreed decision. There are times when the Coroner may ask family to sign an “Admonition Opposing Autopsy." However, there are rare times when the family’s objection must be over-ruled by the Coroner and the autopsy performed.
How To Obtain a Copy of an Autopsy Report:
Generally, the family or legal representative of a decedent may request a copy of the autopsy report. The final report is usually available about two months after the death. The Coroner’s staff will assist you in obtaining the copy. There may be a fee for obtaining a copy of the report. RCW 68.50.105 explains who has the right to a copy of an autopsy report. You may refer to the previous RCW or contact our office for further information.