Determine if an autopsy is needed

Immediately After a Death

An Autopsy is a medical procedure that determines the cause of a death.

When the death is unexpected, or is a result of suspicious activity, an autopsy may be required by the state and is known as a Forensic Autopsy.

When an autopsy is voluntarily requested by the surviving family for any reason, it's known as a Clinical Autopsy.

Depending upon the circumstances of the deceased's passing, further investigation into its cause may be needed.

Determining the need for an autopsy depends on whether the death was expected.

Helpful Tips


Typically, forensic autopsies do not cost any money because they are required by law.

However, because clinical autopsies are requested voluntarily, they may cost the surviving family between $3,000 and $5,000. This will vary by state, and if conducted by the state or a private company.

To request a non-forensic, clinical autopsy from the state, contact the local coroner in the county where the deceased passed.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders To request a clinical autopsy from a private company, contact providers near you at the links below.


Personal Considerations


Was the death expected?


An autopsy may not be needed because the death was the result of something known and understood.

However, the surviving family may request one if they feel it's necessary. A requested, non-state required autopsy is known as a Clinical Autopsy.

Examples for why you may request a clinical autopsy include:

  • Physicians are unable to provide details about the cause of death
  • Family members are concerned about a potential genetic condition that could impact survivors
  • Family members want to explore the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit or medical malpractice lawsuit
  • Family members disagree with the suspected cause of death

When the autopsy is complete, the deceased's body will be available for transport to a Funeral Home or any other end-of-life arrangements.

To request a non-forensic, clinical autopsy from the state, contact the local county coroner. Or you may hire a private autopsy company to get a "second opinion."

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders Contact private autopsy providers near you at the links above, and attorneys at the links below. They may be able to help with this process.


An autopsy may be required by state law. This is known as a Forensic Autopsy.

The Authorities will ask a series of questions to determine if the procedure is necessary. If so, they will coordinate with the local coroner or medical examiner and transport the deceased's body there for review.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant Because a Forensic Autopsy is required by law, they do not require authorization from surviving family members, next of kin, or Legal Guardian.

However:

  • If the deceased's religion objects to an autopsy, you may speak with authorities about alternative options
  • An Open Casket may still be possible after an autopsy, but memorial plans should be evaluated with the help of a funeral director
  • Once complete, the body will be available to a funeral home or for other end-of-life arrangements.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders No matter the circumstance, it may be helpful to speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney to help navigate the situation. Find those near you at the links below.


If the death was expected:

An autopsy may not be needed because the death was the result of something known and understood.

However, the surviving family may request one if they feel it's necessary. A requested, non-state required autopsy is known as a Clinical Autopsy.

Examples for why you may request a clinical autopsy include:

  • Physicians are unable to provide details about the cause of death
  • Family members are concerned about a potential genetic condition that could impact survivors
  • Family members want to explore the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit or medical malpractice lawsuit
  • Family members disagree with the suspected cause of death

When the autopsy is complete, the deceased's body will be available for transport to a Funeral Home or any other end-of-life arrangements.

To request a non-forensic, clinical autopsy from the state, contact the local county coroner. Or you may hire a private autopsy company to get a "second opinion."

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders Contact private autopsy providers near you at the links above, and attorneys at the links below. They may be able to help with this process.

If the death was not expected:

An autopsy may be required by state law. This is known as a Forensic Autopsy.

The Authorities will ask a series of questions to determine if the procedure is necessary. If so, they will coordinate with the local coroner or medical examiner and transport the deceased's body there for review.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant Because a Forensic Autopsy is required by law, they do not require authorization from surviving family members, next of kin, or Legal Guardian.

However:

  • If the deceased's religion objects to an autopsy, you may speak with authorities about alternative options
  • An Open Casket may still be possible after an autopsy, but memorial plans should be evaluated with the help of a funeral director
  • Once complete, the body will be available to a funeral home or for other end-of-life arrangements.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders No matter the circumstance, it may be helpful to speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney to help navigate the situation. Find those near you at the links below.

Providers to Contact


Wrongful Death Attorneys Near You

If the cause of death is suspicious, a Wrongful Death Attorney can offer helpful guidance and advice on next steps. Wrongful death attorneys help families get compensation for the death of a loved one caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing.

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Immediately After a Death