Religious Objection to Autopsy


The Medical Examiner-Coroner is mandated by State Law to investigate all sudden, unusual or medically unattended deaths in the County and has the responsibility of cause and manner of death determination.  The Medical Examiner-Coroner (a licensed physician with subspecialty training and expertise in the field of forensic pathology) determines whether an autopsy is necessary to render cause and manner of death.  In many cases, the Medical Examiner-Coroner will honor a family’s objection to the performance of an autopsy for religious reasons.  If a family objects to an autopsy, the family is required to complete an Autopsy Objection form which is placed in the file to be reviewed by the on call doctor and discussed with the remaining doctors including the Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner. 

Although the Medical Examiner-Coroner will try to honor all autopsy objections based on religion, not all requests can be honored particularly if a loved one is a victim of a crime (homicide), is an infant or child without known medical history or is a non-elderly individual who suffers a sudden unexpected death. If an autopsy is necessary, the office will contact the family and inform them of the doctor’s decision. 

If the Medical Examiner-Coroner honors the request for no autopsy, the body will undergo an external examination and postmortem ancillary studies to include complete toxicology analysis will commence but without incisions and further dissection of the internal organs.  If a decedent has no known medical history and/or lack of medical records, the cause and manner of death determination may be undetermined, meaning that the doctor could not reliably conclude that the death resulted from natural or unnatural causes.   


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