Frequently Asked Questions

  • My loved one has died, what should I do first?
    If you have not yet done so, you should contact the funeral home of your choosing and advise them that your loved one is at the Medical Examiner's Office in Kalamazoo. The funeral director will know what needs to be done and can help with any questions that you may have.
  • Do I need to go to the Medical Examiner's Office to identify my loved one?
    No. If an identification is required, our office will request x-rays or fingerprints of your loved one to be scientifically compared. If you know of a hospital or dentist's office that the decedent attended, please call our office at 269.337.6173 and provide this information.
  • What is a postmortem exam?
    A postmortem exam is a medical examination that is conducted after someone dies. It may involve a complete autopsy; however, in some cases the doctor may decide that only an external or limited exam is necessary. The doctors who conduct these exams are forensic pathologists with advanced training in death investigations. Rest assured that your loved one will be treated with the utmost respect.
  • Why is a postmortem examination necessary?
    As an advocate for both the decedent and the next-of-kin, the Medical Examiner is required by law to investigate certain types of deaths to determine the cause and manner. In addition, our office is responsible for investigating deaths that may be important to public health and safety.
  • What are the different types of postmortem examinations?

    External Examination: An external examination includes a detailed record of observations of the body and possible laboratory/toxicology testing.

    Limited Examination: A limited examination generally is within an anatomic boundary (such as a brain only examination) to recover a foreign body or to answer specific questions. These examinations may also include laboratory/toxicology testing.

    Complete Autopsy: A complete examination includes an external examination of the body and internal examination of the organs, with laboratory/toxicology testing (if the appropriate specimens are available).

  • Who pays for the postmortem exam?
    When the postmortem exam is ordered by the Medical Examiner, it is paid for by the county in which the death occurred. There is no cost to the family.
  • How long does a postmortem exam take?
    We perform postmortem exams seven days a week. They are usually performed the day following the death; however, there are cases that take more than one day to complete.
  • Can a family refuse an autopsy?
    Autopsies are performed to answer medical and legal questions in the "public interest," to protect public health or to address a question of law.  However, we recognize that your family beliefs may be contrary to autopsy. If you have an opposition to an autopsy, please promptly contact our office at 844.337.6001, ext. 112 and speak directly with a representative. It may still be necessary to complete an autopsy in order to fulfill our statutory obligations, however, we will work to meet the needs of your personal beliefs while meeting the needs of the Medical Examiner.
  • How do I get a death certificate?

    Your funeral director can facilitate the process of obtaining a copy of a death certificate. Our office provides information to the funeral director for the death certificate, however, the funeral director files the document with the county clerk. 

    Certified copies of death certificates can be obtained from vital records offices in:

  • What is the difference between cause and manner of death?
    The cause of death is related to the underlying disease and/or injury that resulted in the individual's death. The manner of death, in the state of Michigan, is limited to these possibilities: natural, accident, suicide, homicide, or indeterminate.
  • When will I know the results of the postmortem exam?

    The final postmortem results will be documented in the Postmortem Examination or Autopsy Report, which can take up to 60 days to prepare. Complex cases may require extended time frames. If you would like a copy of the report, please see the Report Request Center to submit a request electronically. If you are unable to submit your request online, please mail a written Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to our general mailing address:

    Office of the Medical Examiner
    (INSERT THE COUNTY WHERE THE DEATH OCCURRED]
    1000 Oakland Drive
    Kalamazoo, MI 49008

  • How do I get a copy of the postmortem examination or autopsy report?
    Please see the Report Request Center to submit a request electronically. If you are unable to submit your request online, please mail a written Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to our general mailing address:

    Office of the Medical Examiner
    (INSERT THE COUNTY WHERE THE DEATH OCCURRED]
    1000 Oakland Drive
    Kalamazoo, MI 49008
  • Why does the cause of death and/or the manner of death say PENDING?
    In many cases, the Medical Examiner will initially issue a death certificate with the cause and manner listed simply as pending. This is done in cases when additional information is required before rendering an opinion. In many cases, this is not needed, and although additional information is provided and reviewed, the cause and/or manner may not be changed. If additional information is obtained that causes the medical examiner to have a changed opinion regarding the cause or manner of death, the death certificate can be amended to reflect the changed opinion.
  • Who is next-of-kin?
    The next-of-kin is the decedent's family, in the following order of priority for individuals over 18 years of age: surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings. For additional information, please see Michigan Compiled Laws regarding next-of-kin.
  • Can we still have an open casket after an autopsy?
    An autopsy generally does NOT prevent whatever type of viewing the family chooses. You should have a discussion with your funeral director about whether a viewing is recommended given the circumstances of your loved one's death.