Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My loved one has passed away and is currently at your facility. What happens now?

A: First and foremost, we are so sorry for your loss. Upon receiving the deceased, we will conduct an autopsy within 24 to 48 hours. During this time, the legal next of kin is encouraged to choose a funeral home or crematorium and sign a written release that gives the Medical Examiner's Office permission to release the body. Upon completion of the exam, we will release the body to your funeral home or crematorium of choice.


Q: What is an autopsy?

A: An autopsy is a postmortem examination of a decedent to determine the cause and manner of death. An autopsy can be either an external examination, limited dissection, or a full autopsy. An external examination involves taking inventory of all clothing and valuables and taking note of identifying characteristics such as eye color, hair color, ethnicity, age, sex, marks, or visible markings such as tattoos, scars, or trauma. A limited dissection involves the internal examination of specific parts of the body that are believed to have contributed to the cause of death. A full autopsy involves both an external and internal examination, including a thorough inspection of all organs and the completion of postmortem toxicology or other pertinent laboratory tests.


Q: What types of cases are reported to the DeKalb County Medical Examiner's Office?

A: Our office investigates deaths that fall under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Death Investigation Act, O.C.G.A. 45-16-24. This includes deaths involving violence, accidents, suicide, sudden or suspicious circumstances, children under the age of 7, executions, inmates, hospital admittance within 24 hours where the patient never gained consciousness, or a physician is unable to sign a death certificate.


Q: How do I obtain a copy of an autopsy report?

A: Please send a completed copy of the Autopsy Report Request Form and a copy of your government-issued photo ID via mail or email:


Q: How long does a body remain at the Medical Examiner's facility?

A: From the time a body is admitted into the facility, an autopsy typically takes place within 24 to 48 hours. Exceptions to this may involve extenuating circumstances, such as issues with identification or locating the legal next of kin. Upon completion of the examination, the deceased will be released to your funeral home or crematorium of choice after we receive a written release.


Q: How do I obtain a death certificate?

A: Unfortunately, we are unable to release a death certificate directly from this facility. To obtain a death certificate, navigate to the Vital Records page of the Georgia Department of Public Health website.


Q: How long does it take to get an autopsy report?

A: On average, the DCME completes autopsy reports within 1 - 3 months, but this can vary depending on individual circumstances. Currently, 83% of all cases are completed in less than 30 days. If medical records or additional laboratory testing are required, the report can take longer, in which case we encourage individual status inquiries by contacting our office.


Q: How do I choose a funeral home?

A: We encourage you to choose a funeral home that suits you and your family's needs at your earliest convenience. Click here for a list of funeral homes we've previously worked with, or feel free to reach out to any other you feel comfortable with.


Q: How do I claim a body?

A: After choosing a funeral home or crematorium, the legal next of kin should contact their staff to make arrangements and sign a written release to grant the Medical Examiner's Office permission to release the deceased. All personal property brought in with the body will be released to the funeral home unless the case involves a homicide, in which case the property will be turned over to the appropriate law enforcement agency.


Q: How do I identify my loved one?

A: In the case we need to verify the identity of the deceased, an investigator will typically show the next closest relative a photo for positive identification. Viewings should be done at your funeral home of choice, unless specified otherwise.

Q: Who can help me cleanup after a traumatic situation?

A: If there are blood or bodily fluids present, you may decide to use a biohazard cleaning service to help you clean and disinfect your area appropriately. Click here for a list of reliable cleaning services that specialize in dealing with hazardous materials.