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Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) §11-593 requires that the following deaths be reported to the Office of the Medical Examiner:
•Death when not under the current care of a health care provider as defined pursuant to section §36-301. •Death resulting from violence. •Unexpected or unexplained death. •Death of a person in a custodial agency as defined in section §13-4401. •Unexpected or unexplained death of an infant or child. •Death occurring in a suspicious, unusual or non-natural manner, including death from an accident believed to be related to the deceased person's occupation or employment. •Death occurring as a result of anesthetic or surgical procedures. •Death suspected to be caused by a previously unreported or undiagnosed disease that constitutes a threat to public safety. •Death involving unidentifiable bodies.
It is up to the Medical Examiner to determine if a case meets jurisdictional requirements to further investigate and certify the cause and manner of death on the death certificate.
Medicolegal death investigations are conducted for the best interest of the public at large and only under the circumstances listed above. Not all investigations require examination of the decedent or a forensic autopsy.
If it is determined that the decedent requires examination, the body will be transported to 701 W. Jefferson St. Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Each case is investigated on a case by case basis. If an examination is needed, it will be completed by a medical doctor who specializes in Forensic Pathology. The OME performs three types of examinations: autopsy, partial autopsy, and external examination. The Medical Examiner determines the exam type based on information gathered during the investigation. In order to meet our mission and statutory duties, an autopsy or partial autopsy may be required. Additionally, an autopsy may not always be completed if requested.
Please make the investigator aware of any specific requests you have regarding the examination. The Medical Examiner will take family wishes into consideration; however, the Office of the Medical Examiner is not always able to accommodate these requests.
Your family member is identified through visual comparison to a legal form of identification, photograph identification by family, or forensic methods including fingerprints, DNA, dental charts, or other unique identifying marks. In situations where an immediate family member questions the identification or wishes to assist in the identification process, a written or electronic request can be submitted to request an identification meeting pursuant to A.R.S. §11-597.01
Note: The Office of the Medical Examiner is a forensic medical setting and only the viewing of a photograph is used for identification. Physical viewings are not allowed at this location.
Release will occur after the Medical Examiner has completed the examination. To initiate the release process, the next of kin will need to contact a service provider (e.g. funeral home, mortuary, cremation society, transportation provider).
The mortuary, funeral home, or other service provider will follow up on behalf of the family to coordinate the release.
Your service provider also will request certain vital statistic information that must be recorded on the death certificate.
Any personal effects obtained by the OME will be released with the decedent to the selected funeral home/mortuary unless those items are deemed evidence, in which case they will be released to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
You can check cause and manner of death online.
A Medical Examiner Report is completed for all jurisdictional cases and summarizes the circumstances surrounding the death, medical and social histories, and forensic examination findings. The Medical Examiner Report may contain details about medical procedures, injuries, and medical findings which may be upsetting for some next of kin.
Copies of the report(s) are available upon completion of the case. Completion time will vary depending on the complexity, circumstances, and need for additional testing or investigation required for each individual case. The OME strives to complete 90% of our cases within 90 days.
For updates on cause and manner of death and availability of the report, you can visit the Case Status feature on our website. You may also request a report on the website by clicking here.
Alternatively, you may contact Administrative Support Services at (602) 506-3322 to request a copy of the report. There is no fee to obtain a copy of the report if you are legal next of kin or if you request an electronic report.
The “pending” death certificate is legal proof of death. Some insurance companies and financial institutions may accept pending death certificates for the purpose of paying benefits or handling other accounts. Additional documentations may be required and in some instances the Family Advocate is available to assist you with matter.
You may obtain a death certificate through your designated funeral home/mortuary or from the Maricopa County Department of Public Heath, Office of Vital Registration. The OME is responsible for completing the medical portion of the death certificate within 72 hours of the examination (excluding weekends and holidays), in compliance with A.R.S. §36-325. In some cases, a specific cause and/or manner of death in unable to be determined after examination without further laboratory testing or investigation. In those instances, the cause and manner of death are listed as "Pending". Once the investigation is concluded, an amendment to the death certificate is filed with the Office of Vital Records. The funeral home/mortuary is responsible for completing the demographic portion of the death certificate.
A death certificate can be requested in-person or online. For additional information please visit the Office of Vital Registration website.