How Long Does an Autopsy Report Take?

Find out how long it takes to get an autopsy report back and answer any other question you have about the process. Waiting for an Autopsy report can be a stressful time, whilst you await the results that can sometimes feel like it can take forever.

Preliminary results of an autopsy can be available in as little as 24 hours. However, the final report can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks depending on a variety of different circumstances. 

What Impacts How Long an Autopsy Report Takes?

The length that an autopsy report takes to complete is dependent upon:

  • The test required to complete the report
  • The complexity of each individual autopsy
  • If there an ongoing police investigation

If you are next of kin you can usually get a preliminary autopsy or at least an update on the expected report completion date. 

How Soon After Death Does an Autopsy Need to be Completed?

For the best results, an autopsy should be performed within 24 hours of death and prior to embalming. This is because the organs begin to deteriorate within 24 hours of a person dying and embalming fluids can impact the toxicology report.

While getting an autopsy within 24 hours is ideal, an autopsy report completed outside of this time frame can still reveal a lot of important information. 

How Long Does an Autopsy Take?

The autopsy itself only takes about 2 to 4 hours. The body is usually released within 24 hours and it should not impact any funeral arrangements.

When Should You Get an Autopsy Done?

It’s always a good idea to have an autopsy done as it can provide key medical information, help detect a medical illness or even just put your mind at ease by determining the true cause of death.

When is an Autopsy Required by Law?

The requirements for an autopsy differ based on the state law. However, in most state’s they are completed for homicide investigations or unusual circumstances where foul play is suspected. 

Who Performs Forensic Autopsies?

When an autopsy is mandated by law, the State Forensic Examiners Office is in charge of completing the autopsy. They can help determine cause of death and documentation of injuries. 

Can I Prevent a State Mandated Autopsy from Occurring?

Next-of-kin can object to a mandated autopsy from occurring and in most cases the forensic examiner’s office will consider the objection. However, when the autopsy is required by law, there is not much that they can do to stop it. 

Should I Get an Autopsy Done if It’s Not Mandated?

Autopsies help verify the cause of death. If you want closure or would like to learn more about why your loved on died, it’s a good idea to get an autopsy. Not only will they help you emotionally, but they may provide key health information to help you or the medical community as a whole.

Who Does Non-Forensic Autopsies?

If the individual who died is not part of a suspected crime, then the state forensic examiner’s office does not get involved. Instead, you will need to find a private certified autopsy provider. 

Where Can I Find a Private Autopsy Provider?

The National Association of Medical Examiners has a list of providers and resources to help you find a private provider. Additionally, the College of American Pathologists has a list of board-certified providers in several states. 

How Much Does an Autopsy Cost?

Autopsies can be extremely expensive, ranging between $3,000 and $5,000 dollars. However, if the autopsy is state mandated, then it is completed at no cost to you.

Does Insurance Cover an Autopsy?

No form of insurance will cover an autopsy. This includes Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance. 

Who Can Authorize and Autopsy?

A private autopsy will need to be authorized by the legal next-of-kin. However, the coroner, medical examiner or justice of the peace can authorize or require an autopsy.

Who is Considered the Legal Next of Kin?

The legal next of kin is determined in the following order:

  • Spouse
  • Parent (if they are a minor)
  • Oldest adult child (if they are of legal age and if both parents are deceased)
  • Court or guardian that has legal care of a minor
  • A person who assumes custody and responsibility for the burial of the body

What Types of Autopsies Are There?

There are three main types of autopsies. They include:

  • Complete autopsy – a thorough examination of the body inside and out
  • Partial autopsy – an examiniation of the external part of the body and certain internal areas of interest
  • Exhumation autopsy – an autopsy of a previously buried body.

What is Included on an Autopsy Report?

The autopsy report first defines the autopsy procedures. Then it provides details about the microscopic findings and medical diagnoses.

The autopsy report also correlates the findings from the medical examination and pathology report with the findings of the report. It then concludes with a summary of the case.

What if I Have Questions About the Autopsy Report?

The office that completed the autopsy will usually answer questions that you have about the report unless it’s involved in a criminal investigation. If you are questioning the findings of the autopsy, it is possible to get a second autopsy.