Final Reports of Autopsy can take weeks to several months to prepare due to the detailed studies that may be performed during the autopsy procedure. All Final Reports of Autopsy are distributed to the State’s Attorneys Office per 18 V.S.A. § 505. In certain circumstances, such as cases in which there is an ongoing criminal investigation, the state’s attorney has jurisdiction over the distribution of the autopsy findings.
In compliance with the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner records are confidential and are released with the written consent of the legal next-of-kin or personal representative. As such, we require documentation that proves legal next-of-kin’s relationship and authority to act on behalf of the decedent. The priority of next-of-kin and documentation proving relationship is summarized as follows:
- The spouse of the decedent (marriage certificate)
- And adult son or daughter of the decedent (child’s birth certificate)
- Either parent of the decedent (decedent’s birth certificate)
- Adult sibling of the decedent (both decedents and sibling’s birth certificate)
- Grandparent of decedent (both the decedents parent and decedent’s birth certificate)
- An individual possessing Durable Power of Attorney (letter appointing Durable Power of Attorney from Court)
- Guardian of the decedent (letter appointing guardianship from the Court)
- Administration of decedent’s estate (letter of appointment from Court)
- Fiduciary of decedent (letter of Fiduciary from Court)
Families wishing to obtain a copy of the Final Report of Autopsy must complete the Authorization For Use and Disclosure of Health Information Form. The Authorization must be signed by the legal next-of-kin, include documentation proving authorization and submitted to the Office of The Chief Medical Examiner. The legal next-of-kin can direct our office to release the report to other family members, physician, insurance company, or other parties. Final Reports of Autopsy are technical, and we generally recommend that it be reviewed with a family physician.