Families served by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) often have questions about autopsy, funeral arrangements, and casefile records requests. The FAQs below provide details on OCME’s procedures.
Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.
Does OCME have my DNA profile in the OCME DNA database?
If you would like to know if OCME has your DNA profile or if it is in the OCME DNA database, please call 212-323-1900.
The Request to Search for DNA Profile Form can be found on the OCME Department of Forensic Biology page.
How do I request medical examiner (ME) casefile records from the OCME?
The How to Request Medical Examiner Casefile Records from the OCME page explains how to request records.
How do I use ShareFile to download records requests from the OCME?
How much does it cost for a copy of the Autopsy Report?
Autopsy reports are provided free of charge.
Where is my loved one being taken?
Your loved one will be transported to one of three OCME Forensic Pathology Centers for examination by a Medical Examiner. These centers are in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The center to which your loved one is transported will generally be based on place of death but may include other factors. An OCME case number will be assigned and provided to you for your reference and is helpful when communicating with OCME.
Why must the deceased person be identified and what is the procedure?
Information on the Identification process can be found on the Identifications page of our For Families tab.
What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a systematic examination of the body of a deceased person by a qualified pathologist. Performance of an autopsy does not interfere with having the body on view at the funeral. The body is inspected for the presence of disease or injury; specimens of the vital organs and/or body fluids may be taken for microscopic, chemical, or other tests. In some instances, an organ such as a brain or heart may be retained for further diagnostic tests.
These diagnostic tests are conducted after release of the body to the next of kin. After the body is released to next of kin, a family may contact the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to request the return of any organs and/or tissue specimens.
A written record is made of the autopsy findings including the microscopic and laboratory tests, and the reports of consultants. Copies of these reports are available upon request by next of kin or other authorized individuals.
Why might an autopsy be performed? Is an autopsy required?
A Medical Examiner (forensic pathologist) will be assigned to examine your loved one, usually the morning after arrival at the Forensic Pathology Center. This Medical Examiner will be responsible for determining cause and manner of death. An autopsy may be performed to make the determination. An autopsy is an external and internal examination of a body. During an autopsy, the medical examiner may retain specimens for diagnostic testing. None of these tests will prevent your loved one from being released for funeral arrangements, and the autopsy will not interfere with funeral viewing. In most cases, the decision to perform an autopsy will not cause any delay in releasing your loved one to the funeral home. If you object to an autopsy, you should notify OCME as soon as possible by calling our 24/7 Communications Unit. Please call 212-447-2030 and follow the prompts for “family member” (press 3, then press 1). The final decision about whether to perform a autopsy is made by the Medical Examiner, who may reach out to you for further discussion.
Since the OCME works with law enforcement agencies, how does the delay of a determination affect criminal investigations?
Often, additional information is needed from medical records, police reports, subsequent laboratory tests, and other sources before a final determination on cause and manner of death can be made. In such cases, the death certificate will state the cause and manner of death as "pending further studies" until the medical examiner can issue an amended death certificate later when the final determination is made.
While medical examiners routinely assess information from other sources and records as part of a death investigation, their role in criminal investigations is specific and limited. The agency always defers to the investigating law enforcement entity on wider inquiries around any criminal investigation. Pathologists testify in criminal proceedings regarding their medical examinations, and accuracy is vital. Unlike other municipalities, the OCME is not under the authority of any law enforcement entity, and our findings are completely independent.
Who can claim a body for funeral arrangement?
Person(s) who may be eligible to make final disposition arrangements include those appointed in a written document by the decedent, a spouse or domestic partner, adult children, parents, siblings, or other persons or organizations acting on behalf of the decedent. For information on claiming your loved one for final disposition under New York State Public Health Law, please consult a funeral director or attorney.
What if I cannot make funeral arrangements?
There are resources that may be available to facilitate the burial/cremation of your loved one. If you are unable to make final disposition arrangements or need additional time to do so, please contact our Outreach Unit at 212-323-1350 for further guidance. The Outreach Unit is available between the hours of 9am and 5pm, daily.
How do I obtain a death certificate?
Your funeral director will assist you with obtaining copies of the death certificate. The death certificate may also be obtained through the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's (DOHMH) Office of Vital Records directly. For information on obtaining a death certificate through DOHMH, please call 311 or visit their website.
Where is the deceased's personal property held?
If personal property is located on the body of a deceased person, the property will be released to the funeral home when their body is released.
If a person dies in the absence of family, or has no family, all personal property is taken to the precinct in which the death occurred. From there, it is transmitted to the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") Property Clerk.
If the deceased died while in the hospital or nursing home, or death was pronounced upon arrival at a hospital, personal property is safeguarded there. OCME staff will provide you with the name and phone number of the hospital administrator.
If the death is a homicide or suspicious in nature, personal property may be held by NYPD until the close of the investigation and/or criminal prosecution.
Are there any other charges that I should be aware of?
There are no charges to the family for the services of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Who can I call if I have medical/scientific questions about an Autopsy Report I have received?
Please call 212-447-2030 then press 3 to be directed to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy.