You will be asked to complete a questionnaire regarding the person you are about to identify. It will consist of some basic personal questions such as name, age and your relationship with the deceased. You will be required to produce a picture ID, such as a driver's license or other state ID. Included in the process will be a form to sign regarding the release of the decendent's medical records.
An Investigator of the Medical Examiner's Office will assist you in making a visual identification of your family member or friend through a monitor in the viewing room. After positive identification has been made, arrangements for burial may be made through the funeral home of your choice. The funeral home will ask the legal next of kin to sign a body release form. This form is needed by the Medical Examiner's Office for proper and expedient release of the body to the funeral home.
An autopsy is usually completed within 24 hours of receipt of the body at the Medical Examiner's Office. You may request a Medical Examiner Investigator to explain what procedures will be performed on the body and when it can be released to you for final disposition. Testing on tissue or body fluids is done after the autopsy is completed and does not interfere with the family in making final arrangements with the funeral home.
Personal property may be retrieved by the legal next of kin after the identification process has taken place. If property is being retrieved by someone other than the legal next of kin, then authorization - such as a power of attorney - must be provided by the legal next of kin for that person to retrieve personal property. If there is personal property that requires special handling, such as a weapon or objects considered as evidence by law enforcement authorities, we will instruct the family as to how this will be done. If another agency, such as law enforcement, has taken custody of weapons or personal belongings, we will provide you with the name of the agency and a contact person to assist you with any questions.
We issue one death certificate with the date, time, cause and manner of death listed on it. The death certificate accompanies the decedent's body to the funeral home chosen by the family where the necessary information will be added to complete the death certificate. Copies of the death certificate may be obtained through the funeral home once the necessary information has been updated and has been filed with the Health Department.
An autopsy report may be obtained from the Medical Examiner's Office. The cost is $50 payable by certified check made out to "Wayne County Medical Examiner." This report is generally ready within two  weeks after the autopsy has been completed, unless the case was initially "pending." A "pending" status may be indicated on a death certificate immediately following the autopsy. This simply means that other tests are being performed which may include the study of tissue and testing for drugs, chemicals or toxic substances. Other information, such as medical records, may also be required to arrive at a cause of death. The Death Certificate will be amended when the cause of death is known. The funeral director will be notified by this office when the death certificate is complete with a cause of death.
Additional questions about the autopsy can be directed to one of our Forensic Pathologists. The autopsy is a procedure used for hundreds of years to determine the cause of death. It is a method of collecting evidence for the need of law enforcement, and information about disease which may be useful ,and perhaps vital, to your family and the community. It is often the only means available to do so, and the only way to gather some kind of facts. We hope this brochure has been helpful in answering some of the questions you may have about the autopsy and related issues. We are available to assist you if you have any further questions at: (313) 833-2504.
- The Medical Examiner Office processes approximately 3,000 cases each year.
- The Medical Examiner's Office is open to handle reports of deaths 24 hours a day, 365 days a year..
- More than 13,000 incidents of deaths are fielded by the office each year.