In the US, it depends on state law. For instance, in Alabama, under state statutes, autopsies are public records, in Arkansas, however, autopsy reports are not medical records, meaning they are public records.
See autopsy laws by state in the table below.
Quick take: are autopsies public records?
- State law determines who has the authority to request autopsy reports.
- Autopsy reports are generally open to next of kin, family, insurance investigators, law enforcement and prosecutors.
- You may have to file a FOIA request to access autopsy reports if you are unrelated to the deceased.
Are autopsy reports public records?
An autopsy, necropsy, or post mortem examination refers to a surgical procedure aimed at establishing the cause of death. Depending on state law, autopsy reports could be medical records. Why is that important?
Federal and state privacy laws do not allow anyone to view your medical records without your consent. Consequently, if autopsy reports are medical reports in your state, the documents are not public records. For example, in Massachusetts, autopsy reports are medical records. Under section 32 chapter 2, the state’s chief medical examiner may only share autopsy reports with the following parties:
- Law enforcement agents/ investigatory bodies.
- Spouses and next of kin.
- Parties in a civil proceeding related to the death.
Note that state law allows the chief medical examiner to set a fee. That means that to access an autopsy report, you must pay for it in almost all states.
Who performs autopsies in the US?
The chief medical examiner is the person tasked with making autopsy reports in the majority of states. Therefore, the easiest way to find autopsy reports in your state is to visit the states’ official chief medical examiner’s website. For instance, if you are in New York. You may visit the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner here.
Find your state’s chief medical examiner’s website and contact information in the table below.
Who can access autopsy reports in the US?
As mentioned, state law determines who has the authority to view autopsy reports. But generally, the records are available to family members/next of kin, investigatory bodies, and parties involved in civil proceedings related to the deceased.
Where to download autopsy reports?
- autopsy reports become public records after investigations are complete.
- State law may limit the amount of information you may receive if you are not family or next of kin.
- Family, legal representatives, and insurers may access autopsy reports in states where the information is not public.
- In some states, you may need consent from the relatives or state to view autopsy reports.
|State||Autopsy report related statute||Public record status||Chief medical examiner website/contact information. (Request and download autopsy reports by state)|
|Alabama||Ala. 45-27-60.07 Ala. Code § 36-18-2||Public record if there is no pending criminal investigation. Anyone may request a copy.||State Department of Forensic Sciences, and records. https://www.adfs.alabama.gov/services/di/family-resources|
|Alaska||AS 12.65.020 AS 40.25. AS 40.25.110 -.125.||Public record. Statute does not directly address coroner reports. Available to:||State Medical Examiner. https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/MedicalExaminer/Pages/default.aspx|
|Arizona||A.R.S. §§ 11-594||Public record if there is no pending criminal investigation. may require court approval.||State Medical Examiner. https://www.maricopa.gov/468/Medical-Examiner|
|Arkansas||Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-312||Reports are subject to the FOIA act. Public record if there is no pending criminal investigation. Medical information/records are exempt from disclosure.||Arkansas State Crime Laboratory https://www.dps.arkansas.gov/crime-info-support/arkansas-state-crime-lab/contact-us/|
|California||Cal. Gov’t Code § 27491.6||Public records. Anyone may request a copy if there is no pending investigation.||Office of the Medical Examiner-coroner https://medicalexaminer.sccgov.org/medical-examiner-coroners-reports|
|Colorado||§ 24-72-204(3)(a)(I).||Public record. Not public until suspect is arrested or investigations end.||State Coroner https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Agencies-Departments-Offices-Directory/Public-Health-Environment/Medical-Examiner/Autopsy-Report-Request|
|Connecticut||Conn. 448, 518 A.2d 64 Stat. §19a-411.||Not public record. Next of kin and family may request a copy.||Chief Medical Examiner https://portal.ct.gov/OCME|
|Delaware||16 Del. C. § 1210||Not public. You must have property documentation and authorization (proof of relationship). Available to family and next of kin||Division of Forensic Science https://forensics.delaware.gov/forms/index.shtml?dc=famRequestForm|
|District of Columbia||D.C. Code Ann. § 5-1412(c).||You must “legitimate interest” to access autopsy reports. Available to next of kin and family.||Chief Medical Examiner https://ocme.dc.gov|
|Florida||119.011(1)F.S||Public record if there is no pending criminal investigation. You must show “good cause” Anyone may obtain a copy.||District Examiner https://www.pinellascounty.org/forensics/me_faqs.htm|
|Georgia||O.C.G.A. § 45-16-27(d) 556, 385 S.E.2d 406||Public record. You must have written permission from next of kin or family to access images or videos.||Division of Forensic Sciences https://dofs-gbi.georgia.gov/autopsies|
|Hawaii||Haw. Rev. Stat. § 346-10||Public records. State may withhold if there is a pending investigation.||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.honolulu.gov/med|
|Idaho||Public record||Office of the Coroner https://adacounty.id.gov/coroner/coroner-faq/|
|Illinois||5 ILCS 140/7(1)(d)(i)||Not public record if there is a pending criminal investigation.||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.cookcountyil.gov/agency/medical-examiners-office|
|Indiana||I.C. § 5-14-3-3) (I.C. § 5-14-3) (I.C. § 36-2-14-18(c))||Public record. You must submit a written request. Open to:||Coroner https://www.in.gov/ctb/files/section501.pdf|
|Iowa||Iowa Code § 691.6 r Iowa Code § 331.802||Cause of death is public record. Remaining information i9nclduing photos and videos are medical records.||Chief Medical Examiner https://iosme.iowa.gov/faq/who-can-obtain-copies-autopsy-report-and-death-certificate|
|Kansas||Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 1986-05. Kansas Open Record Act (KORA)||Public record once completed.||–|
|Kentucky||Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(h) Open Records Act||public record when investigations conclude.||Chief Medical Examiner https://justice.ky.gov/Departments-Agencies/Documents/ME/KentuckyMedicalExaminerBrochure.pdf c|
|Louisiana||La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13:5713||not public records|
|Maine||22 M.R.S.A. § 3022(8).||not public records||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.maine.gov/ag/crime/chief_medical_examiner.shtml|
|Maryland||§ 4-329.||public records||Chief Medical Examiner https://health.maryland.gov/ocme/Pages/faqs.aspx#:~:text=To%20review%20an%20autopsy%20report,warrant%20the%20release%20of%20materials.|
|Massachusetts||medical records/ not public records kin/family may have to submit a written affidavit.||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.mass.gov/autopsy-reports|
|New Hampshire||RSA 611-A:8,III,||confidential medical records you must have consent from next of kin/family||Department of Justice https://www.doj.nh.gov/medical-examiner/|
|New Jersey||N.J.A.C. 8:2A-1.2. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1||public records||Department of Health https://www.nj.gov/health/me/about-us/|
|New Mexico||NMSA 1978 § 24-14-28(A)||Public record. Available to “anyone demonstrating a tangible and direct interest.”||–|
|New York||–||Available to next of kin and district attorney.||Chief Medical Examiner https://www1.nyc.gov/site/ocme/services/autopsy.page|
|North Carolina||North Carolina G. S. § 130a-389.||Limited access. Available to:||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.ocme.dhhs.nc.gov/annreport/index.shtml|
|North Dakota||N.D.C.C. § 23-01-05.5.||Confidential. Available to:||State Forensic Examiner http://www.ndhealth.gov/ndme/coronerinformati.html|
|Ohio||Public record after completion of investigations.|
|Oklahoma||3 O.S. § 945(D) 63 O.S. § 945(E)||Summary report is public record||Chief Medical Examiner|
|Oregon||ORS 192.345(36)||Limited access. Open to next of kin and family members||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.oregon.gov/osp/programs/pages/med.aspx|
|Pennsylvania||Pennsylvania right to know law||Public record||–|
|Rhode Island||R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 23-3-1||–||–|
|South Carolina||S.C. Code Ann. §§ 17-5-535||Not public record/ medical records.||–|
|South Dakota||SDCL §23-14-12.||Not public records||–|
|Michigan||Open to family and next of kin. You may file a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request if you are not related to the deceased||County Medical Examiner https://www.oakgov.com/me/Pages/autopsy.aspx|
|Minnesota||Minn. Stat. § 13.83, subd. 2 Data practices act||Public records. Family and next of kin do not pay||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.health.state.mn.us/people/vitalrecords/deathreg/coroners_and_mes.cfm|
|Mississippi||41 -61-63(a).||Autopsy reports open to:||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.dps.ms.gov/forensic-laboratories/medical-examiner/reports|
|Missouri||.Rev.Stat. § 194.115, §§ 58.720-.740||Public record. Fee does not apply to family.||Chief Medical Examiner https://greenecountymo.gov/medical_examiner/FAQ.php#A156|
|Montana||–||–||Chief Medical Examiner https://dojmt.gov/crime/medical-examiner/|
|New Hampshire||RSA 611-A:8,II RSA 611-B:11||Medical report/not public records You will need consent from family or next of kin||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.doj.nh.gov/medical-examiner/|
|Nevada||Public record||Coroner https://www.washoecounty.gov/coroner/faq/autopsy_report.php|
|Tennessee||Tenn. Code Ann. § 38-7-108||Public record. Anyone may request copies.||Department of Health https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/oscme.html|
|Texas||Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. JC-0422||Public record. Anyone may request a copy||Institute of Forensic Science https://ifs.harriscountytx.gov/Pages/AutopsyReports.aspx|
|Utah||Utah Code § 26-4-17.||Open to: You may need a written request||Chief Medical Examiner https://ome.utah.gov/category/our-services|
|Vermont||1 V.S.A. § 317. 18 V.S.A. § 505. 18 V.S.A. § 5205)||Not public records.||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.healthvermont.gov/health-professionals-systems/office-medical-examiner/recordsreports|
|Virginia||Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-285||Medical records/ not public records, Open to||Chief Medical Examiner https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/medical-examiner/information-for-family-and-friends/faqs/|
|Washington||RCW 68.50.105.||Confidential. Open to||Chief Medical Examiner https://snohomishcountywa.gov/771/Records-Requests|
|West Virginia||N/A||Medical records/not public records. Open to||Chief Medical Examiner https://dhhr.wv.gov/ocme/Document_Request/Pages/Document%20requests.aspx|
|Wisconsin||Wis. Stats. 19.34(1)||Cause of death is public record. Family and next of kin may access photos, and other autopsy records,||County Medical Examiner’s Office https://www.co.jackson.wi.us/index.asp?SEC=6E2F062F-D4FE-481C-AD00-4132BE7E5466&DE=BB6238A1-459B-4744-825F-1131992568B0 you may obtain non certified copies at the County Register of Deeds office|
|Wyoming||Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(I)||You may petition the court if you have “good cause” Open to:||Coroner https://www.tetoncountywy.gov/258/Coroner|