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Medical Examiner

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Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide professional death investigation services in a compassionate, respectful, timely and accurate manner while complying with applicable California statutes.


Our purpose is to investigate the circumstances of deaths that fall under our jurisdiction as defined by California statutes.

What we do

A death investigation is initiated when the Medical Examiner Office is notified by law enforcement agencies, funeral homes, health providers or loved ones, and is deemed to fall under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner. It is then our duty to identify deceased individuals, notify relatives of deaths, protect the immediate property on or about a body, determine the cause, manner and circumstances of deaths, initiate the death certificate and provide forensic consultative services concerning investigated deaths.

Reportable Deaths

California law requires investigation of deaths that occur from unknown causes or under suspicious circumstances. The following categories of deaths are immediately reportable to the Medical Examiner Office:

  • Suspected or known homicides, suicides and accidents
  • Deaths involving suspected or known criminal activity
  • Deaths involving suspected poisonings
  • Deaths related to substance abuse
  • Deaths occurring in jail or in police custody
  • Deaths occurring at state mental hospitals
  • Deaths related to occupational diseases or hazards
  • Deaths in which the deceased was not attended to by a physician for the 20 days prior to dying.
  • Deaths in which a physician cannot reasonably give the cause of death
  • Deaths involving suspected contagious diseases constituting a public hazard
  • Deaths of unidentified persons
  • Deaths occurring within 24 hours of hospital admission
  • Deaths suspected to be from sudden infant death syndrome

Immediate reporting of the above listed deaths assures compliance with the statutory provisions of California Government Code 27491 and Health and Safety Code 102850 and Code 103000.

Identification and Viewing

Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary for the next of kin to come to the Medical Examiner Office to make identification. Decedents are identified through fingerprinting or other forensic means.

The Medical Examiner Office does not have private areas suitable for viewing. Loved ones may be viewed at the funeral home or mortuary.


Property brought in with the decedent is released with the body to the mortuary or funeral home.

Additional Information

Death Certificates can be obtained from the funeral home or the Office of Vital Records. 805-981-5172
Autopsy Reports may be requested by calling the Medical Examiner Office at 805-641-4401 or by email at MEOAdmin@ventura.org. Two copies are provided to the family at no charge. Additional copies are available for a fee. NOTE: reports often take 4-6 months to complete depending on the complexity of the investigation.



What is the difference between a Medical Examiner and a Coroner?
A Medical Examiner is a licensed forensic pathologist (Medical Doctor) with particular expertise in investigating violent, sudden and unexpected, suspicious or unattended deaths. A Coroner is an elected or appointed public officer, usually associated with the Sheriff’s Department, whose primary duty is to determine causes of death. Ventura County employs two full time Forensic Pathologists.

Why is the Medical Examiner Office Involved?
In general, deaths of a sudden and unexpected nature are investigated. All deaths related to any type of injury or intoxication must be investigated by our office. This includes deaths that are obviously due to trauma such as motor vehicle related fatalities and deaths that are known or suspected to be due to drug or alcohol intoxication. (See Deaths that are Reportable)

What is an autopsy?
An autopsy is a surgical examination of the body, inside and out, performed to document injuries, diseases, and even normal conditions of the body. The procedure is performed by a medical doctor with special training in recognizing the appearance of injuries and the effects of diseases.

Will an autopsy always be performed?
No. We are not required by law to autopsy all non-natural deaths. At the discretion of the Medical Examiner, an external examination may be used to confirm the cause and manner of death.

Is viewing or visitation of the body allowed at the Medical Examiner Office?
No, we do not have viewing areas at the Medical Examiner Office. This activity should take place at the mortuary or funeral home chosen by the next of kin.

What happens to personal property taken into custody by the Medical Examiner Investigator?
At the scene of the death, the Medical Examiner Investigator may take custody of personal property belonging to the decedent. The property is logged, secured, and later released with the body to the mortuary or funeral home chosen by the next of kin for its further delivery to the family.

How do I get a copy of the death certificate?
The Medical Examiner Office does not issue death certificates. You may request them from the mortuary or funeral home the next of kin has chosen.

What does “pending” mean on a death certificate?
It means we are unable to record a definitive cause and/or manner of death on the death certificate immediately following our examination. After the exam is completed, it is sometimes necessary for us to perform microscopic, chemical or toxicological tests in order to arrive at the exact cause of death.

When will the autopsy report be available and how do I get one?
This varies depending on microscopic, chemical or toxicological tests that are sent out. In general, autopsy reports are usually ready within 4-6 months from the date of death. To request a report,
Send an email to MEOAdmin@ventura.org or call us at 805-641-4401. We do not accept walk-ins at this time.

How much does it cost for a copy of the report?
There is no charge for the first two copies provided to the legal next of kin. Additional copies are $15. Checks should be made payable to VCME and sent to 300 Hillmont Avenue, Ventura, CA 93003. We do not accept online payments, debit/credit cards or cash at this time.


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