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Frequently Asked Questions

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Medical Examiner's Office

Does the Medical Examiner's Office (MEO) issue death certificates?

No, the MEO does not issue death certificates. You can obtain one from the Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) or from your funeral director. The toll-free phone number to the BVS is 1-800-842-5040.

How long does it take for an autopsy report to be ready?

It typically takes at least six to eight weeks for the autopsy report to be completed, and in complex cases it may take longer. This is because the MEO does not release a report until all testing and information gathrering on the case is completed.

Who can request an autopsy report and under what conditions?

  • The decedent's legal next of kin
  • A person or agency with written permission of the next of kin (an attorney or insurance company)
  • Any person with a court order or subpoena for the report

Requests should be made using the Records Request Form.

What are the fees for autopsy reports?

  • Autopsy report (includes toxicology report): $30.00
  • Toxicology report: $3.00
  • Complete case file: $35.00
  • Photos: $5.50 (each)
  • Histology slides: $5.50 (each)

How long are bodies kept at the Medical Examiner's Office?

Unidentified or unclaimed bodies are kept for a minimum of three months.

Who can claim a body at the Medical Examiner's Office?

Anyone, including friends and neighbors, may claim a body three days after the date of pronouncement of death.

What are the procedures for in-person identification at the Medical Examiner's Office?

In-person identification is not always required. Questions regarding in-person identification should be directed to the investigative unit at 215-685-7445.

What is the process for obtaining DNA samples for paternity testing?

The toxicology laboratory keeps samples suitable for DNA testing for a period of at least one year after the date of death. For many cases additional samples are kept for several years.

Learn more about DNA samples and requirements.

If you still have questions, or to inform the lab that you need a DNA sample held for longer than a year, please contact us at 215-685-7460.

Does the Medical Examiner's Office offer internships?

The toxicology lab accepts chemistry and biology majors in their junior or senior years, as well as graduate students in forensic toxicology.

The investigative unit accepts anthropology, criminal justice, and forensic medicine majors; students in other majors may be accepted as well.

The pathology unit accepts medical students and pathology residents; students and residents should contact their school directly for more information.

The histology, anthropology, odontology, and forensic technician units do not accept interns.