We use scientific methods to learn how and why a person has died. The information we gather can influence the outcome of court cases, and help surviving family members protect their own health.
Autopsy and results
An autopsy is a thorough physical examination of a body to determine how and why a person died. The examination can also identify disease, injury and other conditions that might not have been obvious when the person was alive. Upon request, certain family members (spouse, children, parents and siblings) may be entitled to an autopsy report.
Request an autopsy report (PDF)
In some cases, an autopsy is required by law. If you think your loved one would object to an autopsy based on their religious beliefs, tell the medical examiner right away. We will work with you to find a solution.
Also, sometimes the medical examiner must keep larger portions of tissues or even whole organs to fully examine them. If you want those returned, write to our office within two weeks of the autopsy and make arrangements through a funeral director. Otherwise, the tissues and organs are destroyed.
Organ and tissue donation
An investigator or hospital staff may have already approached you about donating your loved one’s tissues or organs. If not, and you’re interested in donation, tell the medical examiner staff right away.
Clothing and property
The medical examiner will account for all the property and clothing brought into the office and store them in a secure area. In most cases, we release clothing and property to the funeral home. The police might hold items that could affect a criminal case.
Public and nonpublic information
Certain information about the death is available to the public, including full name; age; race; gender; home address; date, time and location of injury; date, time and location of death, and brief descriptive comments. Other information about the death is available only to next-of-kin (usually a spouse, children, parents and siblings), and personal lawyers and doctors. We release some information about the death to the public, but most is protected and only available to next of kin.
Make an information request (PDF)
Request a death certificate
For deaths occurring in other Minnesota counties, request a death certificate from state vital records.
Release of the body
The funeral home may receive the body only with permission from the person with the legal right to decide what happens to the body. In most cases, this is next of kin, but it could also be a health care agent or a member of the extended family. This person must inform the medical examiner’s office if someone else will be making decisions about the body.
Body release form — Next of kin authorization (PDF) - Use Internet Explorer only
Relinquishment of Burial Rights (PDF) - Use Internet Explorer only
Digital signature instructions Windows 7 (DOCX)
Digital signature instructions Windows 10 (DOCX)
When families can’t afford burial or cremation, the county may be able to help with those expenses.
Homicide or violent crime deaths - contact victim services at the county attorney's office
Other deaths - contact the county's burial assistance program
Burial assistance for Dakota County residents
Burial assistance for Scott County residents