Medical Examiner

Request Autopsy Report/Records Unclaimed Bodies Application for Indigent Burial/Cremation Relinquishment of Right of Sepulcher

Reporting A Death

To report a death, call your local law enforcement authorities. Law enforcement can report deaths by calling 816-881-6600 and speaking with the on-duty death investigator. For non-injury deaths, nursing homes and hospice agencies can fill out the forms(PDF, 97KB) here and fax them to 816-881-6598. If the death is injury-related, please call the death in to the on-duty investigator at 816-881-6600.

 

Grief & Mourning Support

As a service to the families, we offer the following links as resources in support of the grief and healing process:

Resources

     º Bereaved Parents of the USA
     º Grace Hospice
     º Kansas City Hospice

 

Fellowships

Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office operates a one-year Fellowship Training Program in Forensic Pathology, which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Qualifications

The fellow candidate must be a licensed M.D. or D.O. in Missouri and have completed medical school, completed 3-4 years of pathology residency training in Anatomic Pathology and/or Anatomical and Clinical Pathology.

Training Course

The training course begins with orientation and didactic lectures, followed by graduated responsibility in case difficulty and complexity. Forensic Pathology knowledge is gained by scene investigations and performance of approximately 200 to 250 autopsies. Fellows will have observed court testimony and depositions by the end of the 1 year fellowship. Categorized records provide excellent study materials for research projects and board preparation. At year’s end the Fellow should be educated with skills and logic needed to practice forensic pathology independently. The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office received its ACGME accreditation in 2002, with continued accreditation through Jan 2022.

Current Program 

The 2023-2024 Forensic Pathology Fellowship program position is open and accepting applications. The program runs from July 1 to June 30.

 

Managing Mass Fatality Events

The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office (JCMEO) is responsible for the managing of Mass Fatality events. A Mass Fatality event is described as any occurrence of multiple deaths that overwhelm the usual routine capacity of the Medical Examiner or Coroner. Recent events and the emergent threats of continued terrorist activity emphasizes the need for public sector agencies to plan for a coordinated response to a Mass Fatality event. Agencies small and large, urban and rural need to be prepared for an event that will exceed their operations capacity.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office has a written mass fatality plan and is trained on the use of an operational portable morgue. The Medical Examiner is responsible for processing and identifying the victims of the mass fatality event.

Portable Morgue
The portable morgue can be set up at a location away from the JCMEO and contains all the equipment for forensic operations to begin, without disrupting the day to day operation of the JCMEO. The equipment used in the portable morgue was purchased through both grant funding obtained by the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) and funds from the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office. A forensic team of volunteers has formed the Kansas City Regional Mortuary Operational Response Group (KCRMORG) and periodically holds field operation training. The KCRMORG is a regional asset for Missouri and Kansas.

Training Events
The training consists of setting up the Victim Identification Center which interviews family members of missing persons in the event and obtains necessary personal information of the missing person that can be used later for identification. The KCRMORG is a regional asset for 9 counties in Missouri and Kansas. The team also trains on victim recovery and morgue operations. The JCMEO also participates in the Emergency Operations Center to update information regarding recovery efforts and needed resources from the impacted area.

If the Jackson County Medical Examiner evaluates the event and makes the decision that the event is too large to be handled by local resources, the decision to request State and/or Federal assistance through the Emergency Operations Center can be made.

Death Certificates

Request a Death Certificate

The Medical Examiner’s Office does not issue death certificates. Contact your funeral home.

Certificate Copies

When a family makes funeral arrangements, the funeral home will ask how many copies of the death certificate the family needs. The funeral home will then provide that number of death certificates to the family. If the family or another entity requires more copies or needs a copy at a future date, then they should contact the Bureau of Vital Records, which is part of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services:

Bureau of Vital Records
P.O. Box 570
930 Wildwood Drive
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: 573-751-6387

 

FAQs

1. What cases should be reported to the Medical Examiner Office?
These guidelines are intended to assist in determining what constitutes a Coroner/Medical Examiner Death Case and how to report a case. Reporting Guidelines

2. Who is a Medical Examiner?
A Medical Examiner is a medical doctor, usually a Forensic Pathologist. The Medical Examiner certifies the cause and manner of death, based on his/her expert opinion following an investigation and medical examination. This examination may include an autopsy and laboratory tests such as toxicology. The medical examiner also completes a report and creates a file for each decedent to document his/her findings in a lasting way. The Medical Examiner's team consists of many other individuals, who assist in various ways with the investigation, administrative tasks, and autopsies. These individuals include Forensic Technicians, Investigators, Office Specialists, Transcriptionists, and Managers.

3. What is the difference between a Medical Examiner and a Coroner?
Medical Examiners and coroners are two different groups that meet a similar need in their communities. Coroners are usually elected laypersons who may or may not have medical training, depending on local statutes. Coroners contract with pathologist or forensic pathologist who provides autopsies and medical expertise to support the coroner's investigations.

Medical Examiners are almost always appointed to their positions rather than elected, are always physicians, and should have specialized training in forensic pathology. The Medical Examiner system is the preferred death investigation system in the United States, with over half of the states using this system.

In rare circumstances, the terminology may become complex, as a Forensic Pathologist may also be the elected Coroner.

In the state of Missouri, larger urban counties operate under Medical Examiner jurisdiction, while smaller counties, by statute, operate under coroner jurisdiction. Coroners from several rural Missouri counties contract with the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy services when needed.

4. What is Forensic Pathology?
Forensic Pathology is a subspecialty of pathology that studies disease and injury and how they interface with legal issues. Forensic Pathologists conduct specialized forensic autopsies, provide expert testimony in courts of law, and are at the leading edge of surveillance for new patterns of disease and injury. The modern practice of Forensic Pathology contributes to the public health and public safety of our communities.

5. Who is a Forensic Pathologist?
A Forensic Pathologist is a physician -- a licensed medical doctor who has received specialized training in Anatomic Pathology and Forensic Pathology. This training process lasts for up to an additional six years after graduation from medical school. After completion of the training period, a pathologist can sit for examinations offered by the American Board of Pathology. If a passing grade is achieved on the examination, the board confers certification on the tested areas.

The Jackson County Chief Medical Examiner and Deputy Medical Examiners are board-certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology. Some of our medical staff are also board-certified in other areas of pathology, such as Clinical Pathology.

Newly hired Medical Examiners must become board-certified within two years of employment.

6. How is jurisdiction determined?
The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office will retain jurisdiction for those deaths that are medical examiner cases in Jackson county. Death certificates will be issued from the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office for those deaths that are medical examiner cases, including deaths from injury or who die suddenly and unexpectedly while in apparent good health, suspicious deaths, or deaths when there is no doctor to sign the death certificate. Jackson County currently provides complete forensic services to Jackson and Cass Counties under contract for death investigations, autopsy and lab testing as well as court testimony when necessary. Multiple other Missouri counties utilize the Medical Examiner’s Office on a referral basis. Autopsies services and other tests are performed to determine cause and manner of death for these counties on a fee for service basis. The death certificates are issued by the referral county coroner/medical examiner based upon the autopsy findings. Local authorities in the referral county will conduct their own scene investigations and share their information with the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office.

7. What is an autopsy?
Also called a post-mortem examination, an autopsy is a systematized, intricate surgical procedure performed after death. It involves external and internal examination of a body, organs and tissues, and often subsequent laboratory testing to determine cause and manner of death. The body is examined both externally and internally, with examination of all major organs to document injury or disease. Small samples of internal organs are retained for microscopic examination and body fluids are obtained and tested for drugs and alcohol.

8. Can I stop an autopsy?
The state statute gives jurisdiction and authority to the Medical Examiner / Forensic Pathologist to decide if an autopsy is needed to determine cause and manner of death. Family permission is not required, unlike a hospital autopsy.

Autopsies are performed to answer medicolegal questions that are deemed in the “public’s interest" or to address a question of law.

9. Is there a charge for an autopsy?
No. There is no charge for an autopsy performed under the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner’s Office when it is determined by the Medical Examiner that an autopsy is warranted. The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office does not perform private autopsies.

10. Under what circumstances is an autopsy performed or not performed?
Visit our Autopsy Circumstances page to find a list of reasons why we require an autopsy.

11. How do I request an autopsy report?
If a party is requesting an autopsy report, we must receive that request in writing: Autopsy Report Request Form(PDF, 21KB)

12. How do I request a death certificate?
The Medical Examiner’s Office does not issue death certificates. Once our portion of the death certificate is completed, the original is sent to the funeral home for finalization and then forwarded to the Bureau of Vital Records to be filed with the State of Missouri. Obtaining A Death Certificate Copy

13. How can I request a correction to a death certificate?
Corrections on a death certificate require an affidavit to be filed with the State of Missouri. The party responsible for the mistake is responsible for correcting the mistake. For more information on the process after the Bureau of Vital Statistics receives the affidavit, please call them at 573-751-6387 or visit their website: Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

14. May I view my loved one at the Medical Examiner's Office?
The deceased may be viewed at the funeral home following release from the Medical Examiner's Office.

15. What is the process for claiming my loved one’s body?
The legal next of kin is responsible for determining disposition of the body. If no next of kin can be located, a friend or organization may make arrangements. The body is available to be claimed after the medical examiner approves the release, which occurs following examination and identification. To claim a body, call the on-duty investigator (816-881-6600) and provide the name of the chosen funeral home. Our investigator will then contact the funeral home that will obtain the body from our office. Funeral homes may not call to state that the family wishes to use their services. The next of kin/friend must personally notify the MEO that an individual is to go to a specific funeral home.

16. How can I retrieve my loved one’s personal property?
Except for evidence, any personal items transported to the Medical Examiner's Office are released to the funeral home along with the body at the time he/she is transported. In case of an emergency in which an item (such as a key) is immediately needed, you can contact the on-duty investigator at 816-881-6600.

All evidence collected is released to the investigating agency. Family should contact the investigating police agency for recovery of those items.

17. What is the Medical Examiner's Office role in organ and tissue donation?
At the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office, one of our goals is to facilitate organ and tissue donation for the benefit of the family and the community.

18. What if a decedent has no next-of-kin or the body is not claimed?
The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office seeks the assistance of the public to help locate next of kin and/or friends to claim the remains. Efforts are made to locate next of kin to claim the body. Short newspaper notices are posted locally to look for next of kin and/or friends. If no responses have been generated, the process of county burial will begin for the county to take jurisdiction and begin county disposition procedures. View a list of unclaimed decedents at the medical examiners office. If you have any information, please call 816-881-6600 and speak with an on-duty investigator.

19. When can a primary or attending physicians certify death certificates?
According to RSMo 193.145.7, if the circumstances suggest that a death was caused by other than natural causes, the medical examiner or coroner shall determine the cause of death.

Primary or attending physicians can certify death certificates only on natural, non-Medical Examiner, cases.

If an injury either caused or contributed to the death, the death shall be reported to the Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO) at 816-881-6600 for determination and certification of the cause and manner of death. This applies even if the injury was a significant amount of time prior to the death. For example, if a traffic accident left one paralyzed and that individual years later died from sepsis due to a decubitus ulcer, the trauma during the accident which caused the paralysis is an underlying cause of death; this death would then be required to be reported to the MEO.

 

 

About Us

The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office is made up of five divisions.

 

Mission Statement

The Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office (JCMEO) is governed by Missouri Revised Statutes. JCMEO is dedicated to providing exceptional death investigations services to the citizens of Jackson County, as well as other Missouri counties on a referral basis. 

The JCMEO provides trained death investigators who will conduct scene investigations of homicides, suicides, accidental and natural deaths under our jurisdiction as determined by State Statutes. Board Certified forensic pathologists (Medical Examiners) will provide expert examinations of the deceased and conduct in-depth examinations utilizing the latest techniques in Forensic Pathology. The Medical Examiners will provide expert testimony in court and will remain neutral in their findings of determining manner and cause of death.

The JCMEO will continue to work closely with all Federal, State and local authorities and departments, which interact with the JCMEO. The JCMEO will also continue to educate the county and surrounding areas for mass fatality preparedness and the possibility of a contagious disease outbreak. The Chief Medical Examiner will continue to ensure that the JCMEO maintains National Association of Medical Examiner’s (NAME) and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accreditations and continues its high standards of dedicated forensic services, education and training.