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Utah Office of the Medical Examiner

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For Families

What Should I Do Now?

By state law the deceased is to be ready to be released to the funeral home or family no longer than 24 hours after arriving at our facility.  Additional testing, investigation, or confirmation of identification may delay this process.

The family should begin selecting a funeral home to handle their arrangements. 

When meeting with the representative from the funeral home simply inform them that your loved one is at the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner (OME). The funeral home will contact our office and arrange for transportation of your loved one to the funeral home.  

You do not need to contact our office yourself. 

A listing of funeral homes, mortuaries and crematoriums in the State of Utah can be accessed below.

Utah Funeral Home Directory

Utah Funeral Directors Association Website.

For Families

Why is the Medical Examiner’s Office Involved?

Your loved one was brought to the Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) because the circumstance under which the death occurred fell under the jurisdiction of this office as defined by the legal code of the State of Utah.  Briefly, the OME is charged with investigating all deaths due to violence, sudden unexpected or suspicious deaths, non-natural deaths during employment, deaths while in law enforcement custody or a mental health facility, sudden deaths of infants and deaths due to therapeutic procedures. 

What determines whether there will be an autopsy?

While the Medical Examiner’s Act determines which deaths fall under OME jurisdiction, the medical examiner assigned to the case will make the decision as to extent of the examination. Not everyone that comes to our office requires a full autopsy.

Can I view the body at the OME?

Our office does not have the necessary facilities for a proper viewing of the deceased by the family. The viewing process is best done at the funeral home where proper presentation can be expected.

For Families

Death Certificate Information (Families)

Where do I get a death certificate?

Official copies of death certificates may be obtained from the funeral home that handled your arrangements, the local health department or the Office of Vital Records in Salt Lake City.  A listing of local health departments can be found here.

How long until I can get a death certificate?

A death certificate is initiated electronically following our examination. The next of kin will need to provide additional information when they meet with the funeral director to fully complete the death certificate before it is officially filed with the County Health Department/Registrar.  If the cause of death can be determined at the time of examination a final death certificate will be issued immediately.  If additional tests or investigation is necessary, a final death certificate may take up to 8-12 weeks or more before it is issued.  In the interim, a “Pending” death certificate is issued.

What does a pending death certificate mean?

Following the initial examination of the body the cause of death may not be apparent and additional testing (toxicology, microscopy) or investigation (review of police reports or medical records) may be necessary. If this is the case, a death certificate will still be issued but the cause of death will simply be listed as “Pending”.

Following completion of the additional studies an ‘amended’ death certificate will be issued with the final cause of death listed. Official copies of the amended death certificate may be obtained from the funeral home that handled your arrangements, the local health department or the Office of Vital Records in Salt Lake City.  A listing of local health departments can be found here.

 

For Families

How to Request Reports (Families)

Who can receive an autopsy report?

To obtain a copy of an autopsy report, you must be an immediate family member or legal representative. Immediate family is defined as a surviving spouse, natural or adoptive parent, any full or half sibling, and any child aged 18 or older.  A legal representative, defined as a legal guardian of the deceased or a personal representative of the deceased’s estate that was appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction, may also access these records.  All next-of-kin and/or legal representatives have equal access to medical examiner records without preference or priority.

How do I get an autopsy report?

In the State of Utah, copies of the autopsy report are not public record. The Office of the Medical Examiner will provide copies of the autopsy report to the decedent’s next-of-kin or legal representative. The first requested copy of the autopsy report is free of charge to the immediate next-of-kin. Future requests from other family members will require a fee of $35 (make checks payable to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office). Additional records beyond the autopsy/toxicology report will require additional fees.

In person

Autopsy reports may be obtained in person during regular business hours upon providing proof of identification and payment (if necessary – cash or check only). You will be asked to fill out a brief form at that time and a copy of your picture identification will be made.

By mail

Requests for reports may be mailed. You will need to enclose a letter of request with an original notarized signature or print out and complete a Records Request Form.  Please enclose a check, if necessary, payable to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office.

Print a “Records Request Form” here

 

For Families

Financial Assistance

What if I cannot afford a funeral?

If the expenses of a funeral cannot be covered by the family, the county in which death occurred will be responsible for cremation and disposition of the remains after a reasonable period of time has elapsed for families to seek some financial assistance.

In Salt Lake County, some financial assistance is available to those in need. Contact Tanner Carver at Carver Mortuary 801-613-8574.

Counties outside of Salt Lake should contact their local health department to inquire about financial assistance.

My loved one/friend was a veteran. Is there any assistance available?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program to reimburse for the purchase of a casket or urn used to inter a deceased, eligible, Unclaimed Veteran in a VA National Cemetery, is in place.  The program allows for the reimbursement to any individual or entity, has standards for the casket or urn purchased, and by law requires that the Veteran died on or after January 10, 2014.

For eligible Veterans who died on or after January 10, 2014 and were interred in a VA national cemetery prior to May 13, 2015 there are special instructions for applying for the reimbursement.

To learn more about the program and how to receive reimbursement, please reference the fact sheets listed below.

Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces, and Veterans who have met minimum active duty service requirements, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Their spouse, widow, or widower, minor children, and, under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities, may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran. Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.

For Families

Tissue, Organ, and Body Donation (Families)

What organs or tissue can be donated?

Persons received by the OME are screened by tissue recovery agencies. After their review and determination that a person would be a suitable donor, a call will be made to the next of kin to obtain permission for recovery and to obtain necessary social and background information. Some tissues, such as corneas, may be recovered without permission from the next of kin provided that the deceased had been placed on the donor registry previously, for example when a driver’s license is renewed.

Organ donation, such as kidneys or a liver, would be recovered in a hospital setting prior to arrival at the OME. Tissues (such as skin, bone, corneas, heart valves) may be recovered within a certain time frame after death provided certain conditions and criteria are met. You may also be asked about donation of tissues for research purposes.

Can I donate the whole body to a teaching facility?

Whole body donation is possible after death to teaching facilities, such as the anatomic dissection lab for the University of Utah’s Medical School. Individuals who have had recent surgery, trauma or any degree of autopsy dissection will not be accepted for this program.

For Families

Personal Property (Families)

What happens with clothing or other personal property?

All personal effects that are received on or with the body will be released with the body to the funeral home UNLESS they are retained for evidence purposes. The condition of the clothing may necessitate disposal by the funeral home after consultation with the next of kin.

Medications that were prescribed to the deceased and submitted to our office will be held for a period of time and then disposed of by the OME in an appropriate manner.

You may contact this office and make arrangements to pick up items, such as keys, on an emergency basis. This can be done during regular business hours only.  You will be required to show picture identification and sign a release form for these items.

For Families

What Should I Do With the Deceased’s Medications?

Prescription medications are collected by OME investigators or by the police if the death occurs outside of a hospital setting.  The identification of medications being used and number of pills remaining can provide useful information in the investigation of the death. 

If the death occurs in a health care facility or you discover additional medications later that belonged to the deceased, you can take them to a designated drop off location. 

These locations can be found online at: useonlyasdirected.org/drop-off-locator/, or by calling the Utah Department of Environmental Quality hotline at 1-800-458-0145.

For Families

Death Scene Cleanup

What if I need help cleaning up?

There are several licensed agencies that are available for cleaning up death scenes. Our office cannot make any specific recommendations.

An internet search under ‘death scene cleanup’ or ‘crime scene cleanup’ should direct you to an agency to assist you.

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