Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Autopsy?
An autopsy is an examination of the body to determine the cause and manner of death and assess any abnormalities that may be present. A complete forensic autopsy includes a review of the decedent’s medical history. Small specimens (biopsies) of internal organs are microscopically examined, and samples of body fluids are retained and tested for drugs and other substances. In deaths resulting from violence, other types of evidence may be collected and examined by a crime laboratory or other agency.
The autopsy and other tests rarely delay the release of the body to next-of-kin. However, final results of the autopsy report usually take 6-8 weeks. In occasional cases, specialized microscopic or laboratory studies may delay the final report longer
Does My Loved One Need an Autopsy?
An autopsy is not necessary in all cases. The circumstances and age of the decedent are significant factors in making that determination. In many cases where the decedent has a documented medical history, an autopsy is not warranted. In cases where the death involves trauma or suspicious circumstances, an autopsy is almost always required.
Can a family refuse an autopsy?
Kentucky law does not recognize a right to refuse an autopsy authorized by the County Coroner. Autopsies are done to answer medical and legal questions in the “public interest,” to protect public health or to address a question of law. However, every decedent is treated with utmost respect and dignity throughout the postmortem examination process.
Who has access to autopsy information and data the Medical Examiner collects?
Basic demographic information and the cause and manner of death are matters of public record under Kentucky law. The rest of the information is treated similarly to a medical record. This information is available to the County Coroner, immediate next-of-kin, law enforcement, legal representatives of the decedent’s estate, and treating physicians.
In cases of homicide, Medical Examiner information and autopsy reports are provided to the County Coroner and law enforcement agencies and attorneys investigating the death until the matter has made its way through the courts.
How do I get a copy of the death certificate?
The funeral director you have chosen to handle final arrangements for your loved one can assist you in getting copies of the death certificate. Also, you can obtain certified copies from: Department of Vital Statistics * 275 E. Main St. 1EA Frankfort, KY 40621 (502) 564-4212.
How do I get a copy of the autopsy report or you have questions about the autopsy report?
Contact the County Coroner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 859-525-1150. Every attempt will be made to accommodate requests. A signed release of information form will be required from the requesting party.
What If I Do Not Have a Funeral Home Chosen Yet?
Decedents will be taken to and remain at the Boone County morgue until transferred to a funeral home of the family’s choosing. You should notify the funeral home you prefer to the Coroner or Deputy coroner and they will arrange the transfer of your loved one.
What if family members want to view their loved one?
Contrary to what is frequently portrayed on television or in movies, viewings are not conducted at the county morgue unless needed for positive identification. Please contact the funeral home you select to inquire about a viewing at their facility.
Who Signs a Death Certificate and How Do I Get Copies?
If the death is due to natural causes and occurred in a medical facility, the attending doctor will sign the death certificate listing cause and manner of death. If a natural death occurs outside a medical facility, the coroner’s office or medical examiner will sign.
Deaths that are accidental, suicide, homicide or undetermined will be signed by the coroner’s office. A review of medical records will be part of the related investigation. Death Certificates can be requested through the funeral home.