What is an autopsy?
Medical examiner autopsy is a detailed medical/surgical examination of a person's body and individual internal organs after death. The function of the autopsy is to identify and document the presence or absence of diseases and/or injuries that can explain an individual's death. Diseases and injuries are interpreted in the context of an accompanying investigation of the patient's circumstances of death, the medical history, and toxicology testing. The cause and manner of death are determined by congruence of investigative, historical and autopsy information.

A medical examiner autopsy is performed or supervised by a forensic pathologist (a pathologist with specialized training and board certification in the practice of autopsy pathology and medicolegal death investigation). Muscatine County uses primarily the University Of Iowa's Decedent Care Center for its autopsies, but will also use the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner in Ankeny. The forensic pathologists at University of Iowa's Decedent Care Center are members of the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner.

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1. What types of death fall under the medical examiner's jurisdiction?
2. What is the difference between a medical examiner and a coroner?
3. What is the difference between a medical examiner and medical examiner investigator?
4. If a death appears natural, why is the Muscatine County Medical Examiner Department involved?
5. What is an autopsy?
6. When and why is an autopsy needed and who determines this?
7. May a family refuse an autopsy ordered by the medical examiner?
8. Who pays for the autopsy?
9. Does an autopsy affect funeral services?
10. How do I choose a funeral service provider?
11. Where will the autopsy take place?
12. Who may obtain copies of the autopsy report?
13. How may I obtain a copy of the autopsy report?
14. Who can request that a forensic autopsy be performed?
15. How long does it take to receive a copy of an autopsy report?
16. What is a death certificate and how do I obtain a copy?
17. I would like to have my loved one's organs / tissues donated. Will medical examiner involvement keep this from happening?
18. How do I get the personal effects of my loved one?
19. What is the best way to dispose of my loved one's leftover prescription medication?
20. Are there any rules concerning the moving of a deceased person prior to the arrival of the medical examiner investigator?
21. Who is legally required to report a death to the Muscatine County Medical Examiner Department?
22. How does HIPAA effect a medical examiner's ability to access protected health information?
23. What do I do next when a loved one dies?