Medical Examiner FAQs

medical examiner

frequently asked questions

medical examiner


How do I obtain a certified copy of the death certificate?

The Medical Examiner's Office does not issue copies of the death certificate. Copies can be requested from the funeral home when arrangements are made. Alternatively, certified death certificates can be obtained directly from the Fulton County Vital Records Department, 141 Pryor Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303 (404-613-1260).

Why does the death certificate list "Pending" on the cause of death line?

Often, more information and records or additional testing is required to accurately determine cause and manner of death. A pending death certificate will still allow your family to make immediate funeral arrangements. Once final determination of cause and manner of death has been made, a supplemental death certificate will be issued to Vital Statistics.

When will the Medical Examiner's Report become available, and how do I receive a copy?

The final Medical Examiner’s report is typically available six to eight weeks from the date of death. However, if additional laboratory tests are needed, several additional weeks may be required. In rare instances, it may take months until a final report is available.

What if I don't have any money for funeral services?

It is still the responsibility of the next of kin to make funeral arrangements. Please talk to the funeral home to determine if your loved one might qualify for county indigent burial.

Where will my loved one's body be taken?

Your loved one’s body will be taken to the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, located at 430 Pryor Street SW Atlanta, GA.

Is it necessary for me to come to the Medical Examiner's Office to identify the decedent?

No. In a majority of cases, positive identification is made at the hospital or scene of death. Should it be necessary for you to visually identify the decedent, you will be notified by our office.

Is viewing allowed at the Medical Examiner's Office?

No. The office does not have a viewing facility. Arrangements should be made with the funeral home to view your loved one prior to burial or cremation.

Why is the Medical Examiner's Office involved?

Georgia Law requires the Medical Examiner to investigate the circumstances and determine cause and manner of death for all deaths that are:

The result of violence or other trauma
Suspicious or unusual in nature
Sudden   and   unexpected, when a person is in apparent good health
Not under the care of a physician
Unlawful or due to criminal neglect


What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is a careful medical examination of the body and its organs by a physician (forensic pathologist) specializing in the study of human diseases. Surgical techniques are utilized to temporarily remove and examine each organ, and small samples of tissue are selected for microscopic examination or other tests as indicated. The examination typically includes toxicological testing, which screens bodily fluids for drugs, chemicals and toxic substances. All autopsies are performed with the utmost skill and respect for your loved one.

Will an autopsy be performed?

Autopsies are routinely performed to accurately determine cause and manner of death on all cases under the Medical Examiner's jurisdiction. Autopsies are not routinely performed in cases where there is significant medical history, the death appears to be natural and there is no evidence of trauma or foul play.

Can we still have an open casket after autopsy?

Yes. Autopsies are performed in a professional manner that does not interfere with viewing the decedent under normal circumstances.

What do I do once my loved one has been taken to the Medical Examiner's Office?

As soon as possible, select a funeral home to handle burial or cremation arrangements for your loved one. When you contact the funeral director, advise them that your loved one is under the Medical Examiner’s jurisdiction.  The funeral director will have a Medical Examiner's Office release form that needs to be signed by the decedent's legal next-of-kin. Once this form is signed, the funeral director will make arrangements with our office to pick up your loved one.

Who is considered legal next of kin?

The legal next of kin is one of the following, in this order:

Adult child(ren)


How long will my loved one remain at the Medical Examiner's Office?

In most circumstances, the decedent can be released within 24 hours of admission to the Medical Examiner's Office. Occasionally, limited access to medical information or the circumstances surrounding the death may, make it necessary for the Medical Examiner 's Office to hold the decedent for an additional period of time.

How and when can personal possessions be claimed?

In some cases, some items may need to be kept as evidence or to assist in the investigation. In most cases, however, these items are provided to the authorized funeral home for return to the family. If property was not released to the funeral home, the legal next-of -kin can claim the decedent's property between 8am and 4pm, Monday through Friday at the Medical Examiner's Office. To avoid inconvenience to you, please call the Medical Examiner's Office and make arrangements before coming into the office