Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Autopsies
Where is our loved one being taken?
The deceased is being removed to our forensic center in Perris or Indio, depending on the geographical area where the death occurred.
Can we come and see him/her?
Any viewing or visitation is done at the mortuary and is not permitted at the forensic facilities.
Is an autopsy always performed?
Not always. If the deceased has been under the care of a physician who can provide this office with the medical cause of death, the Sheriff-Coroner may waive the autopsy. In certain cases of natural death where the deceased had no physician, or in the case of a traumatic death where the cause of death is obvious, we may elect to do only an external examination of the body.
Why are autopsies performed?
There are a number of reasons autopsies are performed. However, the basic reasons are to determine the medical cause of death and to gather evidence for presentation in a court of law.
Does an autopsy prevent viewing of the body at the funeral home?
The autopsy itself is done in such a manner as to allow viewing without seeing evidence of the examination. Length of time since death, the condition of the remains (e.g. major head injury) and the policy of the funeral home determine if viewing the remains can occur. The Coroner's Bureau does not embalm.
How long is the body kept at the Coroner's office?
Normally we try to release the decedent to a funeral home within two to three days. Depending on the circumstances of the death, and confirming identification, sometimes it is necessary to keep the remains longer.
What do we do now?
In the next day or two you should select the mortuary or cremation service that you will utilize for final arrangements. If you do not know of one, we suggest using the yellow pages and calling a few. We cannot recommend any to you.
What about personal property items?
If the deceased had personal property in his/her possession other than articles of clothing, an appointment must be made in order for the next of kin to obtain the property from us. Please call the bureau in the area where the death occurred. Articles of clothing are only released with the remains to your mortuary.
When can we have the funeral?
We make every attempt to complete our initial investigation within 72 hours from the time the death is reported to us. You should not wait to begin making funeral arrangements. The mortuary staff will coordinate the release of the remains with our forensic center.
How do we obtain death certificates?
We will complete a portion of the certificate of death to include the date and time of death, place of death and the cause of death. When death is caused by an injury, we provide the injury information. The certificate of death is transferred electronically through the statewide Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) to the funeral home and their staff completes the document before it is filed with the Health Department. The funeral home will order as many copies as you may require. The mortuary or cremation service staff will order death certificates for you. The death certificate is issued by the county health department.
How do we obtain the Coroner's reports (Coroner's Packet)?
Requests for public record information about a decedent (Coroner's Packet) should be made in writing to the Coroner's Office. Click the Coroner's Packet link at the right for detailed instructions.
What if the medical cause of death is not found during the autopsy?
It is not uncommon for this to happen. If the cause of death is listed as "pending", it is because we have to do further testing on tissue and body fluid samples that are retained during the autopsy. This does not delay the release of the body for burial or cremation, however, you can expect that the cause of death will be pending for approximately 12 weeks. If you are in need of death certificates for legal matters other than life insurance you can order copies with the cause of death pending. Please speak to your mortuary or cremation service staff about ordering them.
Are there fees for the Coroner's services?
There is no charge for an autopsy when it is done as part of the Coroner's investigation. Government Code Section 27472 authorizes the Coroner to recover transportation and storage costs.
Can we contact the Coroner's Bureau?
You are welcome to contact us. For non-emergencies and matters that do not require immediate attention, inquires should be made between 8 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday. The offices are closed on all county holidays.