So Your Loved One Is a Medical Examiner’s Case

It can be distressing to learn that a loved one is a medical examiner case, especially when it is unexpected. This can lead to feelings of frustration and confusion. There’s no need to fear, your death care professionals are available to help you through the process.

What Is A Medical Examiner Case?A medical examiner, by law, takes cases “resulting from violence, poisoning, accident, suicide or homicide; occurring suddenly when the deceased had been in apparent good health or when unattended by a physician”, according to the North Carolina State Statute. These cases include drug overdoses, deaths from an injury, such as a fall or car crash, a young person in good health that dies suddenly, or someone that does not have a doctor or practitioner to sign the death certificate. This responsibility falls on the medical examiner.

Do All Medical Examiner Cases Get an Autopsy?
No, a person that becomes a medical examiner case would not necessarily get an autopsy. They may receive an exam that does not involve the removal of the organs. These cases are usually done on those that pass from violent suicides or deaths after an accident.

How Long Does a Medical Examiner Exam Take?
The time it takes to received a loved one that is a medical examiner case can vary. It depends on whether an autopsy is done and the complexity of the case, as well as other factors. When choosing a funeral home, ask them to call the medical examiner’s office before making arrangements.

How Do I Get The Death Certificate?
The medical examiner will fill out their part of the death certificate and give it to the funeral home to complete. It is then sent to the local Health Department. If you need a copy of a death certificate, speak to the funeral home about getting copies or call your local health department.
For more information, see the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office Frequently Asked Questions page.

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