General


How can I obtain a death certificate?

Our Department does not maintain and/or distribute death certificates. The Department of Public Health is charged with this task for deaths that occurred up to 1 year from the date of death. Once a year has passed, they pass this duty on the to the Registrar Recorder. You may request the death certificates from the Funeral Home or from Public Health/Registrar Recorder directly. Please visit the following page for more information: Public Health

What is an autopsy?

During autopsy a forensic pathologist examines the body.  The pathologist looks for disease or injury.  He or she takes specimens of organs and body fluids for testing. The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner (ME-C) may retain tissues, organs or body fluids.  Sometimes the pathologist keeps a whole organ such as the brain or heart for more testing.  This testing occurs after the release of the body to the mortuary chosen by the next of kin.  A family member may contact the ME-C medical division at 323-343-0520 to request the return of any organ or tissue specimens. Otherwise we will cremate any retained specimens after the appropriate retention time has expired.

The pathologist then prepares a written autopsy report.  Please contact Medical Examiner-Coroner Public Services at 323-343-0512 to find out how to obtain a copy of the autopsy report.

Why does the Medical Examiner-Coroner do autopsies?

The Medical Examiner-Coroner's concern is to determine cause and manner of death.  Determining the cause of death in a person may help identify family histories, contagious disease, and help prevent further premature or preventable deaths within the community.  In criminal cases, autopsies help courts to reach a just verdict. Finally, autopsies help families understand how the death occurred and provide closure.  This can be an important step in the grieving process.

What does the coroner report include?

A coroner report includes the autopsy report, the investigation report, and it may include any or all of the following reports:  toxicology, criminalist, gunshot residue, and a variety of consultant reports.

How much does a copy of the coroner report cost?

The current price of a Coroner’s Case report is $26.00 per report. However, older archived cases are $113.00 per report. If you are unable to locate your case on this website, please contact our Records section at 323-343-0695.

Law enforcement reports and medical records are not provided by the Medical Examiner-Coroner, they must be requested directly from those agencies.

Photographs are not provided in the coroner report.  Only under a court order will the Medical Examiner-Coroner release photographs to the legal next of kin.

What if I do not want an autopsy performed on my relative or friend?

Please let us know as soon as you can.  We try to accommodate the family’s wishes when possible, however sometimes an autopsy is required. A legal certificate of religious belief must be filed prior to the autopsy.  A court order can override this certificate.  Religious belief exemptions cannot be made for children under 18.

People with a religious objection to an autopsy can prepare a Certificate of Religious Belief, California Government Code 27491.43 explains how.

What if I want an autopsy performed on my relative?

If your relative or friend is not a Coroner case, a private autopsy can be done.  However, the legal next of kin must issue a statement as to why they would like a private autopsy and will need to provide a signed death certificate, all medical records, and pay the fee for private autopsy.  Exhumation costs are not included.

The Medical Examiner-Coroner determines the level of examination needed for all Coroner cases.  Not all cases that fit coroner criteria require an autopsy.  You may request that an autopsy be performed, but it will be the Medical Examiner-Coroner's decision if one is clinically or legally necessary.

Please contact our office at 323-343-0520 for additional information.

Can I have an open casket service after an autopsy?

It depends. Autopsies do not eliminate the possibility of open casket services. However, not all decedents are appropriate for viewing due to trauma or other circumstances.

When will I know the cause of death?

The pathologist can sometimes determine the cause of death right after examination. Other times, the pathologist needs to have more tests done.  In that case, the County will issue a deferred death certificate.  Toxicology testing can be a lengthy process due to the thoroughness and quality of our lab testing.  While much of the toxicology testing can be completed in 6-8 weeks, it often takes longer than that.  Thank you for your patience.

Once the additional testing is completed, the pathologist can amend the death certificate, if needed, with the final cause of death.

What should I do with my relative's or friend's prescriptions?

You should take them to your local pharmacist so that they can be properly disposed of.

How long does it take to get the toxicology results?

Due to the thoroughness and quality of our lab testing, toxicology testing can be a lengthy process. While much of the toxicology testing can be completed in 6-8 weeks, it often takes longer than that. Thank you for your patience.

Can I request additional testing?