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Medical Examiner Frequently Asked Questions


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 3291 Loma Vista Rd, Ventura, CA 93003. We do not accept online payments, debit/credit cards or cash at this time.

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