Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Medical Examiner's office involved?

Pursuant to Wisconsin State Statute 979.01, the Medical Examiner's Office is required to investigate deaths that fall into the following categories:


  • All deaths in which there are unexplained, unusual or suspicious circumstances.
  • Homicides
  • Suicides
  • Maternal deaths following abortion.
  • Deaths due to poisoning, whether homicidal, suicidal, or accidental.
  • Deaths following accidents, whether the injury is or is not the primary cause of death.
  • When there was no physician or accredited practitioner in attendance within 30 days preceding death.
  • When a physician refuses to sign or is unable to sign the death certificate.
  • Deaths of inmates of public institutions, who have not been hospitalized for organic illness.
  • Deaths that occur in association with, or as a result of diagnostic, therapeutic, or anesthetic procedures.
  • Deaths due to neglect.
  • Fetus of 20 weeks or older, unattended by a physician or practitioner.
  • Sudden deaths of persons not disabled by recognizable disease processes, in which a fracture of a major bone (femur, humerus, or tibia) has occurred within the past six months.
  • Deaths occurring outside of a hospital or nursing home, and not enrolled in a palliative care program under the care of a physician.
  • Occupational related deaths attributable entirely or in part to external work place factors.
  • Sudden and unexpected deaths occuring in infants or children under the age of 2, under circumstances not explained by a pre-existing medical problem.


Will an autopsy be performed?


An autopsy will be performed when there is a need to establish or confirm a cause and manner of death for the purpose of issuing a death certificate, in cases involving criminal or suspected criminal wrongdoing, and in any case in which an autopsy is considered to be prudent at the Medical Examiner's discretion.


Will I be able to view the body at the Medical Examiner's Office?


The Medical Examiner's Office is not designed to accommodate viewing. Arrangements can be made at the funeral home for viewing.


Will I be charged for Medical Examiner services/reports?



Starting in 2010, a charge of $150 will be assessed for each body transported to the Medical Examiner's office by our transport service.  There is no fee for the autopsy and the resultant medical opinion regarding cause and manner of death. One copy of the investigator's report, autopsy report, and toxicology report ( when applicable) will be made available to the nearest next-of-kin at no cost, once the case is closed. There is a per page charge for all subsequent requests. Please see the Medical Examiner's website for the form used to requests reports, or call the office.


What should I do after being made aware of the death, and the involvement of the Medical Examiner?


Select a funeral home and advise the funeral director of the involvement of the Medical Examiner's Office. Funeral directors are familiar with the operation of our office, and will assist you in making all arrangements for final disposition, including obtaining the death certificate. The funeral director will also pick up the decedent's personal property that is not being held as evidence. Often the deceased will be released the next day from our facility.


When will I be able to obtain a death certificate?


The death certificate should be completed within five to six days of notification of the death. The death certification is given to the Medical Examiner's Office by the funeral home for completion so it is important that a funeral home be selected. Arrangements to obtain certified copies of the death certificate are handled for the family by the funeral home.


NOTE: On occasion, an exact cause or manner of death is not immediately determined following an autopsy or investigation. Special laboratory tests or further investigation may be necessary. As a result, there are occasions when a death certificate may not be available for eight to ten weeks, or longer. In those situations, a pending death certificate will be filed within ten to twelve days of death, and later replaced with an Amended death certificate once the cause and/or manner of death has been established.


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