Our staff will do all that we can to have the deceased ready to be released to a funeral home or family within 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.
The Utah Funeral Directors Association Website can be accessed below.
Utah Funeral Directors Association Website
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.
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.
Who can receive an autopsy report?
To obtain a copy of an autopsy report, you must be an immediate family member of the decedent or legal representative of the decedent. Immediate family is defined as an individual’s spouse, child (18 or older), parent, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild. 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 immediate family members 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 immediate family members or legal representative. This will require a fee of $10 (check or money order only. Make checks payable to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office). Additional records beyond the autopsy/toxicology report will require additional fees.
Autopsy reports may be obtained in person during regular business hours upon providing proof of identification and payment of $10 (check or money order only. Make checks payable to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office). You will be asked to fill out a brief form at that time and a copy of your picture identification will be made.
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 payment of $10 (check or money order only. Make checks payable to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office).
Print a “Records Request Form” here
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 contact Wiscombe Memorial regarding financial assistance.
Outside of Salt Lake County contact your 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.
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. To learn more click here.
After a Suicide
Grief associated with suicide can be especially difficult. Those who lose someone close to suicide may be feeling intense anger, shame and guilt. Survivors of suicide (those who lost someone close) sometimes wrestle with trying to understand and accept the death of someone close for years.
Survivors of suicide are not alone; there are many others who have been affected by suicide and have experienced many of the same emotions. Grief manifests differently in many individuals. There is support for survivors of suicide and we encourage you to seek it out for yourself and others who may have lost someone to suicide.
Survivors of Suicide Support Groups
After an Overdose
Grief associated with an overdose can be full of pain, uncertainty, guilt and shame. Families bereaved by drug-overdose death may face social stigma, personal doubts and frequently feel that they lack support from family, friends, and the community. It’s not uncommon for people to feel isolated during this time. There are, however, thousands of Utahans who have been affected by overdose and many people who are able to support those who have also lost someone to an overdose. The following organizations provide resources for those who have lost someone to an overdose death:
Grieving During COVID-19
Grieving a loss can be difficult even at the best of times and may be especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following are resources to help support you or someone you know while grieving during the pandemic:
COVID-19 Grief Resources for Professionals
Use the following resources to support the bereaved during the COVID-19 pandemic or for those who have lost someone to COVID-19:
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.
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.
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/throw-out/.
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.