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Utah Office of the Medical Examiner

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Custody of the Dead Body

26-4-9 Custody of dead body and personal effects — Examination of scene of death — Preservation of body

These guidelines are dictated by the Medical Examiner’s Act 26-4-9:

“(1) Upon notification of a death under Utah Code Section 26-4-8, the medical examiner shall assume custody of the deceased body, clothing on the body, biological samples taken, and any article on or near the body which may aid the medical examiner in determining the cause of death except those articles which will assist the investigative agency to proceed without delay with the investigation.”

“In all cases the scene of the event may not be disturbed until authorization is given by the senior ranking peace officer from the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction of the case and conducting the investigation. Where death appears to have occurred under circumstances listed in Section 26-4-7, the person or persons finding or having custody of the body, or jurisdiction over the investigation of the death, shall take reasonable precautions to preserve the body and body fluids so that minimum deterioration takes place.”

“The body may not be moved without permission of the medical examiner, district attorney, or county attorney having criminal jurisdiction, or his authorized deputy except in cases of affront to public decency or circumstances where it is not practical to leave the body where found, or in such cases where the cause of death is clearly due to natural causes. The body can under direction of a licensed physician or the medical examiner or his designated representative be moved to a place specified by a funeral director, the attending physician, the medical examiner, or his representative.”

“(2) In the event the body, where referred to the medical examiner, is moved, no cleansing or embalming of the body shall occur without the permission of the medical examiner. An intentional or knowing violation of this Subsection (2) is a class B misdemeanor.”

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